This post has been a long time coming, and it’s exciting to finally get it out the door!
For the past several months I’ve been living and working in Tanzania. What follows is a brief account of the pilot preparation conducted during that time, and information about what’s to come.
##April: From the lab to the field
In May the WellDone team assembled the first 16 MoMo units in California. This included the custom-fabricated PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards), all of the peripherals necessary for deployment on water infrastructure in the field - I’ll post a complete parts list in a later post - and several flow sensor options. With about a dozen of these initial units and nearly 50lbs of electronic and plumbing equipment in a very large suitcase, I took off from SFO and (miraculously without incident despite a thorough customs inspection) landed in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on May 4. After settling into the new city, I spent most of the next month continuing MoMo development and interfacing with various water organizations on the ground, setting the stage for the first test deployments in June and the upcoming full pilot in July.
In May I was invited to speak at two local innovation hubs - the TANZICT Buni Hub and Kinu Tech Hub. I presented MoMo, demonstrated some features of the technology, and discussed my experiences in working on an open-source project. The participants were very interested in applying innovative remote monitoring solutions to prevalent issues in Tanzania such as traffic (traveling just 5km can often take over an hour in Dar es Salaam), flooding, and even poaching.
Next month I will be working with these communities again, this time to evaluate using 3D printing technology for rural technology applications. At the conclusion of this pilot program, WellDone will be leaving several devices and tools with the local tech hubs in an effort to facilitate and inspire new applications for remote monitoring technologies.
In June, it was time to take our devices to the field. In coordination with the Taarifa mobile reporting pilot - also funded by a WorldBank innovation grant - and partnering with SNV for ground support and community engagement, WellDone traveled to Iringa Region to test installation of MoMo at working rural water points. We presented to district- and community-level stakeholders in Mafinga, the seat of Mufindi District in Iringa Region, and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the local COWSO (Community Owned Water Source Organization) representatives and higher-level users such as Mufindi district’s water engineer.
With assistance from the communities we installed two MoMo devices, both on 1” piped water scheme systems, to test the feasibility and security of the technology in the field. The first installation was attached to a 1” turbine flow meter on a PVC pipe about three feet underground. The installation went well, and MoMo was able to record water flowing and report on functionality, but there were network coverage issues that prevented long-term tests at this site. The second site at Mdabulo Ward was above-ground and the installation again went very well - this location had better network coverage, so we were able to get even more data. The COWSO for this ward maintains a large, impressive piped network spanning several kilometers and currently serving three different villages. The president of the COWSO expressed a sincere interest in obtaining and implementing MoMo to aid the maintenance of such an expansive network of pipes, as well as (in the future) to monitor water quality metrics in addition to flow rates.
We learned a lot by testing MoMo in the field, and the lessons we learned there - which have already inspired robustness and network acquisition improvements to MoMo’s firmware - will prove invaluable as we move towards more permanent installations. Though this portion of the pilot has officially concluded, I will hopefully return to Mufindi next month to revisit the installed units and gather more information about the long-term viability of these types of installations.
As July fast approaches, we are gearing up for the biggest pilot deployment yet. This pilot will involve using MoMo to supplement a micro-insurance program run by our partners MSABI in Ifakara, Tanzania. The installations will be on rope pumps, and the pilot will test long-term installation as well as show how MoMo data can be used in the field.
Stay tuned for more frequent updates as the pilot continues!