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Understanding system alignment: Combining LTS and MLP to investigate urban water transitions in Kenya and Uganda
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0611-7512
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.).
2017 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this paper we want to contribute to a theoretical framework suited for analysing and understanding infrastructural change in Africa, and to explore how such a framework may offer a different, more comprehensive and historically informed perspective, which will be necessary for a transformative shift towards global sustainability. We examine the socio-technical dynamics of large water infrastructure in a developing country, Kenya. In particular, we look at the provision of water to the capital Nairobi and its historical trajectory over the past one hundred years. We also discuss tentative results from an ongoing case study on pre-paid metering in the water system in Kampala, Uganda.

In our theoretical approach we combine ideas from the fields of history with innovation- and system studies. We revisit some of the thinking once assembled in the global North around how large infrastructure systems grow and change (the Large Technical Systems, LTS) and try to make parallels and divergences to the trajectories of water infrastructure in Nairobi, while we also bring on board key concepts from the multi-level perspective (MLP). Essentially, we try to locate to which level in the system innovation activity has been concentrated, and what has been the main direction of this activity over a longer period of time. For a broad-brush picture such as this one, we draw our empirical material mainly from our earlier historical research, much of which has already been published, as well as other authors. The novelty of this paper is our re-interpretation of the broad transformation patterns which we enable by using a long time perspective and by the recombination of theory and historical observations.

Our conclusion is that key actors have focussed the continued supply of capital for expansion of the large-scale infrastructure of the system, particularly in its upstream sections. At the same time, the piped part of the water system has become increasingly misaligned with the plurality of sub-systems delivering water outside the borders of the system, which forms the downstream environment of the system. Notably, poor people living in so called “informal settlements” or “slums” have remained disenfranchised to the regime, as they have been defined by regime actors as illegal and thus as externalities of the system. A re-alignment process has taken place in the past two decades through sector reform which has re-enabled capital supply and thus large-scale infrastructure growth. On the other hand, this growth is of a kind that is of marginal benefit to the growing group of low-income urban consumers on the periphery of the large-scale piped system. We suggest that the system exhibits a dual structure of a conservative core serving the middle and high-income population, and with peripheral parts of the system containing a plethora of local innovations. 

Our proposition is the development of an analytical and policy-oriented framework which focuses on alignment processes between what we argue is the most critical level of system interface; between the established water system (regime) and the peripheral sub-systems (local innovation). If we are serious about universal service provision and the human right to water, we must understand this interface, its actors, subsystems and processes; and how alignment between system levels can be achieved.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
Keyword [en]
water development, infrastructure, Kenya, Uganda, developing countries, development policy, Large Technical Systems, Multi Level Perspective, history
National Category
History of Technology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-214453OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-214453DiVA, id: diva2:1141191
Conference
8th International Sustainability Transitions Conference, Gothenburg June 18-21, 2017
Projects
The role of Local Innovation for a Transformative shift towards sustainable water and sanitation in African cities
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas, 942-2015-857
Note

QC 20170915

Available from: 2017-09-14 Created: 2017-09-14 Last updated: 2017-09-15Bibliographically approved

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