Roughly 844 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water. Despite the documented benefits, investments in achieving universal access to safe water remain low due to several factors: availability of free but less sanitary water sources, high cost of delivery, subsidized tariff levels that do not recover costs, lack of capital to replace obsolete infrastructure, poor service capacity and governance, and market distortions by informal providers.
Digital financial services have enormous potential to achieve universal access to safe water and sanitation (SDG 6):
- Digitizing water bill payments saves time for customers, improves revenue collection for utilities and decreases their cost of collection.
- Prepaid water can eliminate arrears for utilities while providing flexibility in consumption and payments for poor households.
- Like PAYGo solar, prepaid water can be combined with digital credit for grid connections (e.g., smart meters) or water assets (e.g., purifiers or roof tanks) to expand access to in-home water and lower costs of financing for providers.
- Installation of smart grids provides rich customer data, improving service quality and enabling quicker response to service disruptions (e.g., leaks).
- For poor and vulnerable households, digital finance can also improve targeted subsidies.