Speaker: Caroline Jennings Saul
Working with waste collection firms, local authorities, and residents, the Solid Waste Accountability Platform tests interventions designed to increase accountability and responsiveness in municipal waste management. The digital platform crowdsources reports of issues throughout communities, including service failures and illegal dumping in areas where there is no service. The pilot established methods and benchmarks for promoting downloads and usage of platform and helped refine features of the platform to better serve citizens, service providers, and municipal authorities. This platform is funded with support from the American People through USAID and implemented by Triangle Environmental, The Asia Foundation, and the DevLab@Duke.
We have completed piloting a digital platform that is utilized by service providers, customers, and other citizens to report, track, and respond to service issues. The platform is comprised of two smartphone applications and a website.
The enterprise-facing application helps employees with customer onboarding, tracking the collection of cash payments, and the ability to view the payment status of nearby customers.
The customer-facing application allows for customers to check their account information such as payment status and collection schedule and to receive alerts to changes or disruptions in service. The free application can be downloaded by anyone, including non-customers, who want to create reports of illegal disposal, improper behavior from waste or fee collectors, or other related issues. These reports are geotagged and can be made anonymously. The application includes information about how to properly dispose of items, as the country has recently updated their waste management regulations.
The website is primarily a dashboard where reports from the app can be viewed on a map or as a series of graphs. These reports can be used by stakeholders to locate “hot spots” and visualize trends. The intended audience is municipal authorities and service providers who can evaluate the performance of service providers and also gain insights to where to expand services and what types of enforcement and regulations might be appropriate.
The platform design is based on a review of existing accountability and reporting tools that are active in Cambodia and other countries, observational visits, and interviews with stakeholders such as managers at waste collection companies, garbage collectors, and municipal authorities, as well as sector experts. These considerations helped to identify features that would be most useful to the different types of users of the platform. After initial wireframes were developed, they were presented and then discussed with four focus groups to further refine the features, design, and name of the platform.
To determine the most successful channels for customer acquisition, the efforts of the promotional team were closely logged for six weeks. The download rates were analyzed to determine the effectiveness of different channels, which informed how to scale promotional activities for wider release. People who downloaded the customer-facing application were asked afterwards where they heard about the platform and some download sources were tracked with distinct download codes. Users were also interviewed about which features of the platform they found valuable and what they would improve.
After the completion of the pilot in one village in Siem Reap, Cambodia, promotion of the will be expanded within Siem Reap and to two additional cities. The larger roll-out is part of a randomized controlled trial.
The pilot focused on establishing best practices for customer acquisition, including promoting downloads and utilization for both customers and service providers. The information campaign tested download acquisition rates for visual, door-to-door, and community meeting promotional techniques as well as the efficacy of different messages including “Clean your community with a swipe of your finger!” and “Dispose together!”
Our initial trial was conducted with a focus on solid waste management, but we see wider applications for the platform across other municipal and infrastructure services. For example, in Cambodia, there has been a call for improvement (Peal et al. 2015) and digital transformation (Startup my city Siem Reap 2017; Kunmakara, 2020) of infrastructure and sanitation services. We can apply our inexpensive and scalable framework to similar improvements in other sectors and municipalities.
By adding additional services to the platform, we can provide a channel for our existing users to report on other environmental issues and request FSM and WASH services. While satisfaction with emptying services is reportedly high in Siem Reap (GRET, 2011), the platform could enable clients to request latrine construction or pit emptying services and provide feedback afterwards. A concern in Cambodian secondary cities is poor construction methods used for latrines and the informational feature of the application can support customers in understanding the expected standards of what they are purchasing. The FSM firms would be able to view opportunities to gain new clients, possibly grouping services to reduce overhead costs like transportation. In turn, local authorities would have insight into issues that require additional regulatory attention.
GRET for BMGF. (2011). Landscape analysis and business model assessment in fecal sludge management: E&T models in Asia – Cambodia. https://www.susana.org/_resources/documents/default/2-1666-cambodia--fsm.pdf
January 13). Jica seeks to turn PP
towns into smart cities. Phenom Penh Post. https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/jica-seeks-turn-pp-towns-smart-cities
June). A review of fecal sludge management in 12 cities. WSP Urban Global Practice Team.
Startup My City Siem Reap. (2017). The Economist. https://startupmycity.economist.com/siem-reap/