Uncharted Academic Waters: A Case for mUtilities (Energy, Water and Sanitation)
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This paper aims to explore the academic literature in Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D). It seeks to find out how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and mobile technologies have been used to enhance the provision of utility services (energy, water and sanitation). We systematically searched through 1263 academic research papers from five top ICT4D journals and one Mobile Communication for Development conference series over the last decade (2008-2017). Only six papers were found to have discussed the use of ICTs in the provision of utility services in a broad way. This dearth of academic research moved us to further explore how practitioners have handled research in the same field. The literature from practitioners shows a lot of potential in the use of mobile technology in supporting the infrastructure used to provide utility services, because most of the people lacking these services are connected to the mobile infrastructure. Their access to the mobile network presents an opportunity to innovate and leverage on the mobile technology and infrastructure to efficiently provide these utility services. Companies leveraging mobile technologies to provide utility services have also attracted significant funding in the recent past, demonstrating investor confidence in this sector. We therefore present a case for the inclusion of mUtilities as a viable empirical testbed within the M4D and ICT4D academic literature.