First Advisor

Evan Thomas

Date of Publication

Spring 6-3-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Systems Science


Systems Science




Communication and technology, Sanitation -- Management -- Technological innovations, Sanitation -- Management -- Methodology, Water-supply -- Kenya -- Case studies



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 147 pages)


As a mechanism for collecting and sharing information, information and communications technologies (ICT) hold immense potential for individuals and institutions in low- and middle-income countries. Currently the distribution and adoption of ICTs--particularly mobile devices--has far outpaced the provision of other household services like clean water, sanitation, hygiene, or energy services. At the same time, the development and deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) devices including cellular- and satellite-connected sensors is facilitating more rapid feedback from remote regions where basic services are most limited. When used in conjunction with economic development or public health interventions, these devices and the feedback they provide can inform operation and maintenance activities for field staff and improve the monitoring and evaluation of outcomes for project stakeholders.

This dissertation includes three chapters written as journal articles. While each chapter is framed around the work and research efforts being undertaken by the Sustainable Water, Energy, and Environmental Technologies Lab (SweetLab) at Portland State University, the common thread that weaves all three investigations together is the theme of ICT-enabled programmatic feedback. The first chapter introduces the three theoretical lenses that inform these investigations and the ways that ICTs and the data they provide can (1) serve as more appropriate proxies for measuring access to services, (2) reduce information asymmetries between various stakeholders including communities, governments, implementers, and funders, and (3) enable more robust methodologies for measuring outcomes and impacts of interventions within complex adaptive systems. The second chapter presents a critical review of the methodologies and technologies being used to track progress on sanitation and hygiene development goals. Chapter three describes how simple sensors and weight measurements can be combined with complex machine learning algorithms to facilitate more reliable and cost-effective latrine servicing in informal settlements. Chapter four presents the results from an investigation exploring how near-time feedback from sensors installed on motorized boreholes can improve water service delivery and drought resilience in arid regions of Northern Kenya. Finally, chapter five provides a summary of the three manuscripts and discusses the significance of this research for future investigations.


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