Using Technology to Track How Citizens Experience Water Service Delivery in India

  • The SLB Connect (Service Level Benchmarking) initiative aims to strengthen citizen engagement in selected India's urban areas for provision of water and sanitation services and thereby help improve service outcomes.
  • In addition to tracking service outcomes for specific projects and programs, SLB Connect allows for analysis by area, including the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
  • Following on a recent pilot initiative’s success, plans are underway to expand the effort to other cities.

 

SLB Connect (Service Level Benchmarking) is using innovative mobile and ICT tools to conduct surveys of urban citizens as well as to monitor, analyze, and disseminate the survey results. In 2012, India’s Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) and the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) launched the initiative, building on MoUD’s Service Level Benchmarks (SLB) program, to both engage citizens in monitoring the performance of urban water suppliers and encourage them to demand better services. 

Although SLB Connect aims to represent all urban citizens, one of its goals is to offer explicit tracking of service delivery in slums, including for facilities such as public stand posts and community toilets. In so doing, it seeks to address the prevalent service inequalities experienced by numerous people living in informal settlements in the nation’s cities.

Activity Components

SLB Connect has three key components:

  •  Mobile survey application. To ensure equitable representation of all citizens—including those living in informal settlements—the activity uses an Android-based mobile application to gather feedback on service-related issues from scientifically selected sample households.
  • Web-based survey management module. This two-way communication module lets survey managers and sector experts monitor and manage survey activities and progress in real time, thus enhancing quality control.
  • Online dashboard and data analysis tools. SLB Connect’s customized dashboard was developed to address the information needs of various stakeholder groups and presents survey results using easy-to-read graphs, tables, and maps.

Pilot Initiative and Next Steps

In early 2012, SLB Connect launched a pilot initiative in Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), an urban local body (ULB) located 160 km from Mumbai and about 10 km from Pune. Established in 1982, PCMC is now emerging as a major corporate and IT hub and has experienced rapid growth in recent years. As per the 2011 census, the city’s population is approximately 1.7 million.

In October–November 2012, trained enumerators conducted a survey of 5,208 households selected through randomized stratified sampling that was designed to ensure representation of all citizens. 

Following the survey, pilot initiative administrators held a meeting with the city manager and senior officials to share survey findings; detailed orientation sessions on SLB Connect and the survey findings were also held for all water department functionaries. Then, in March 2013, a city-level workshop disseminated the findings more widely to political representatives, citizens, and representatives from media and NGOs.  The findings helped highlight some gaps in service levels between informal settlements and other parts of the city, in particular with respect to water quality and complaint redressal. City functionaries have accordingly initiated efforts to identify reasons for water quality problems in certain areas, increase public awareness of safe water storage practices, and widen dissemination of formal channels for lodging complaints to enable better accountability for redressal.

As part of the exercise, over 3,200 mobile numbers were collected from respondents who confirmed their willingness to provide feedback on an on-going basis. The municipality intends to use this database of numbers for strengthening its citizen engagement efforts.

PCMC has shown interest in taking this initiative forward and integrating it with its planning and operational processes. Future plans include:

  • holding several rounds of localized interactions with respondents and other citizens to discuss the findings and future related plans;
  • surveying a panel of households from the existing sample to track progress using SLB Connect;
  • encouraging citizens to voluntarily provide feedback through online questionnaires or downloadable versions from mobile devices;
  • creating an SLB Connect Innovation Center within the city’s IT department that would showcase the initiative for stakeholders and other cities to learn from; and
  • using survey feedback as performance incentives for operational personnel involved in service delivery.

Further Opportunities

SLB Connect’s pilot implementation demonstrates that the model is:

  • socially sustainable, because it relies on voluntary feedback from citizens;
  • institutionally compatible, because it embeds processes into existing institutional structures; and
  • financially viable, because it leverages mobile technology for faster, more cost-effective iterations.

To leverage what was learned from the pilot exercise, SLB Connect aims to replicate the citizen feedback exercise across multiple cities, as well as to integrate it into other bank projects and advocate for its integration with state and national investment programs in water supply and sanitation. For more information on SLB Connect, see www.slbconnect.in