Co-constituting Cost-recovery, Assembling Benevolence (Christiane Tristl)

Lifting jerrycans full of water on a donkey’s back after fetching water from an automatic water dispenser in a Kenyan village

Lifting jerry cans full of water on a donkey’s back after fetching water from an automatic water dispenser in a Kenyan village

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Concerned about “providing reliable and sustainable water supply in the developing world,” a multinational water pump manufacturing company identified the inability to: collect and manage revenue, reduce “non-revenue-water” and lack of money for service and maintenance as the main challenges for “sustainable water supply” in the Global South.To provide a solution to these supposed problems, the company developed “automatic water dispensers”. The dispensers are meant to replace kiosk attendants in already existing water kiosks in “slums” and rural areas. The dispenser can be described as a foursquare unit with a display,an integrated touch screen and a slot on the front side for the blue customer cards that come with the dispenser. Above the slot, the display shows the balance on the card, the amount of the water fetched, and the price per litre. According to the product brochure, the prepayment feature that is integrated in the water cards shall “remove uncertainty in revenue collection”.

Christiane Tristl, ”Co-constituting Cost-recovery, Assembling Benevolence – The Techno-Political Patterning of Automatic Water Dispensers”, Mambo! Volume XIV, (4) 2017.

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