Hackathon seeks solutions to global sanitation crisis

December 1, 2012

Applying mobile technology to help provide proper sanitation to 2.5 billion people who lack it makes sense given that globally 5 billion people are subscribed to mobile phone services, many of them in the developing world, according to the organisers of a two-day global brainstorming event.

The Sanitation Hackathon, which is taking place this weekend, has attracted software developers, designers, entrepreneurs and students to sites in at least 30 cities around the world.

We’re trying to find solutions by building on the massive penetration of mobile phones in the developing world and the availability of data that now makes it possible to improve services for many people, said Andy Narracott, deputy chief executive of Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), who inspired the London initiative.

“What we want to see happen is some useful business models centred around mobile phone usage and open data to try and pilot — and test out their ability to improve the level of service for low-income residents and overall improve their health,” Narracott told AlertNet at the Westminster Hub.



The Sanitation Hackathon is a collaborative effort organised by the World Bank and Random Hacks of Kindness (RHOK), a partnership that includes the U.S. space agency NASA, and technology giants Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Hewlett Packard.

At least 1.1 billion people defecate in the open, according to UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency. Some 1.8 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases — 90 percent are children under age 5, mostly in developing countries, World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics show.

Almost 90 percent of diarrhoeal disease is attributed to unsafe water supply, inadequate sanitation and hygiene, according to the WHO. Improved water supply reduces diarrhoea morbidity by 21 percent and improved sanitation reduces diarrhoea morbidity by 37.5 percent.

Picture Credit: Andy Narracott of Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor at the Sanitation Hackathon at Westminster Hub in London, Dec. 1, 2012. ALERTNET/Julie Mollins

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