While the growing availability of mobile phones has commanded the attention of the development community, an estimated 844 million people continue to lack access to basic drinking water and 2.3 billion to adequate sanitation. Development has now begun of mobile applications to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene services (mWASH). To understand the barriers to innovation, nine mWASH applications were studied using the Framework for Analyzing a Multi-level Innovation System (FAMIS), a conceptual model. Applying FAMIS to a technology aids in understanding when and why it succeeds or fails, and how key stakeholders and institutions can be targeted for intervention. The analysis highlights ways to overcome barriers to innovation and suggests that the technology is less important than the way in which it is implemented.