Service providers involved in faecal sludge management are held back by a lack of current data on their customer base, operating standards and levels of service. Pula, a mobile app, was developed to address this data gap.

This publication shares the learning from a 3-year process of developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for the Pula app. We outline how the MVP was designed and developed, supported by reflections from the app development team about the technology and user requirements.

The publication concludes with three key recommendations identified by the app development team:

  • Focus on one core feature and ensure this is fit for purpose;
  • Establish a relationship with one target customer, allowing the product to be tested over longer periods; and
  • Focus on developing a product tailored to a single market, which can then be adapted for new markets as required.

See also: Design, Prototype, Test: using Design Sprints to develop an app for sanitation service providers

This Practice Note describes the design process behind development of a mobile app, Pula, inspired by GV’s Design Sprint method. Pula aims to support vacuum tankers with their business while providing urban planners with data about sanitation in the city.

See also: Integrating mobile tech into sanitation services: insights from Pula

This Practice Note outlines the development of a toilet database to support sanitation business development and public health monitoring in Lusaka.

Currently being tested in the peri-urban area (PUA) of Kanyama, the electronic database enables information on the ownership, location, quality and emptying history of local pit latrines and septic tanks to be stored in one place.

Blog: November 2017 – Innovations to combat the spread of cholera in cities

Kanyama flooded pit latrine in construction

Innovations to combat the spread of cholera in cities

Cholera is a common public health burden in cities across the developing world, and tackling the spread of cholera in low-income communities is of high priority for city authorities. Particularly in regions where rainy seasons lead to frequent flooding, residents who rely on unimproved sanitation and drinking water facilities are at risk of exposure to […]


PULA app Practice Note front cover

Service providers involved in faecal sludge management (FSM) are held back by a lack of current data on their customer base, operating standards and levels of service.

This Practice Note introduces PULA, an innovative mobile app now being developed to bridge the data gap.

In WSUP’s experience, one key barrier to citywide FSM service provision is lack of data. This means a lack of up-to-date information about the areas of the city being serviced by FSM businesses; about the target customer base for these businesses, and the extent to which businesses are reaching low-income households; and about operating standards (the extent to which businesses are providing a safely managed service). Without this data, authorities are left in the dark about the state of sanitation service provision in their city, undermining their ability to plan, implement and evaluate FSM interventions.

A mobile app has the potential to respond effectively to these challenges, by facilitating real-time, accurate data collection. This in turn will give municipal authorities a clear picture of sanitation in their city; and support the professionalisation of vacuum tanker businesses, by giving drivers the means to collect detailed information about their customer base and jobs completed.
PULA: the design process.

WSUP and project partners BoP and UX are in the process of developing the app through an iterative human-centred design process, with the aim of ensuring app design and functionality respond to genuine user requirements. Initial, intensive ‘Design Sprints’ have been conducted in Ghana and Kenya to develop early prototypes and gather feedback through interviews and workshops with target users, including vacuum tanker business owners and water and sewerage utilities.

The aim is to develop an app which can be customised to the local context, enabling vacuum tanker owners, drivers and municipal sanitation authorities to choose from a menu of features.

Children checking a Clean Team toilet

Clean Team wins USAID digital innovation award

Clean Team, a Ghanaian social enterprise set up by WSUP, has won a Digital Development Award from USAID for its innovative approach to mobile money. The “Digis” recognise USAID projects and activities that embrace best practices in the application of digital technologies to address urgent development problems. Set up by WSUP in 2012, Clean Team […]


SWEEP operators at work, Bangladesh

Transforming the markets for emptying toilets in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, as in other developing countries, one of the biggest issues behind delivering improved sanitation services to the poorest urban residents is the collection and treatment of waste. The challenge is simple: Nearly half of the 55 million urban residents in Bangladesh lack access to sanitation facilities which enable faecal waste to be safely […]