OAKLAND (CBS SF) – A report scheduled for release at a University of California, Berkeley symposium Friday will detail how mobile phone applications could help improve water and sanitation services in developing countries. Since so many of the world’s poor do have cell phones, the study focused on how to use them effectively – as a tool to expand access to basic services.

Globally, there are 1 billion people without safe water, and over 2 billion without proper sanitation.

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“And yet many of these people who don’t have this basic human right happen to have a mobile phone,” explained Meena Palaniappan, Director of the International Water and Communities Initiative at the Oakland-based Pacific Institute, which prepared the report exploring the potential for mobile phones to address key governance challenges in the water and sanitation sector.

“They can be used as reporting devices, to find out if projects are still working five or ten years down the road, and they can be used to make visible the invisible for the urban poor,” she reasoned.

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Palaniappan said the key for developers is to understand that user participation is driven by ease of use, relative to the application.

The Institute is conducting a pilot test in two Indonesian cities, where people text information about water access, which in turn can then be used by advocacy organizations and in policy making and budgeting.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

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