Improving Access to Safe Drinking Water in Rural Sub-Saharan Africa with Behavioral Nudging Innovations - Abstract
Access to safe drinking water is an important element of human nutrition and food science confronting residents and governments in rural regions of developing countries, particularly in rural Sub-Saharan African (SSA). Despite vigorous and sustained efforts by governments, donors, and local stakeholders since 2000, water for more than 650 million in rural SSA as of 2020 are unsafe for drinking, with significant attendant morbidity and mortality. Since 2000, considerable research published by western scientists has focused on development of economically workable and institutionally acceptable technologies to make water safe to drink, for which behavioral nudging could offer a potentially low-cost method to improve access to drinking water. In spite of these potential gains, little work in the published literature has investigated how behavioral nudging could see use to improve human nutrition and promote more widespread adoption of water purification technologies that is consistent with local institutions. As a result, donors and multilaterals often implement ineffective policies for taking action to promote affordable access to safe drinking water. This paper addresses that gap by investigating behavioral nudging implementations that could be made compatible with economic and institutional characteristics unique to rural SSA to promote greater adoption of water disinfecting technologies there. This contribution is implemented by formulating and investigating three distinct behavioral nudging approaches institutionally compactible with much of rural SSA: “word of mouth,” “public proclamation,” and “educational nudging.” Findings of a model characterizing the economic capacity to pay for safe drinking water technologies have positive capacity to pay for water when aligned with well-designed implementations for each of these three information delivery institutions. While the approach and findings are illustrated for rural SSA, its method carries some adaptability and generalizability.