Hackers launch apps to improve sanitation

4th December 2012 Jonathan Andrews

The world’s first ever Global Santitation Hackathon took place this past weekend, 1-2 December, with 350 participants across 14 cities.

Organised by the World Bank, with other partners including Random Hacks of Kindness (RHOK), UNICEF and hosted in Washington DC by OpenGovHub, the hackathon hoped to build on from the success of the Water Hackathon in 2011.

“When you have thousands of children dying every day and billions of dollars in economic losses every year just from a lack of sanitation, it’s obvious there is a crisis,” said Jae So, Manager of the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program. “We need a game changer, and since technology has dramatically changed all our lives, we know that mobile and other technology can offer new solutions we hadn’t considered.”

The world is currently lagging on the Millennium Development Goal for sanitation, with nearly 2.5 billion people still lacking access to improved sanitation.The World Bank and its partners aimed to tap into the 5 billion plus mobile phone users, who utilise mobile technology, and leverage this to offer solutions for better sanitation.

The intense brainstorming and programming marathon brought together talent from across the world to come up with simple applications to be easily applied to real-life situations.

Kicking off in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the 14 cities spanned North America, India, South East Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. An additional 30 cities also contributed sanitation solutions through RHOK.

One of the leading solutions came from a team in Bangalore, India. Team TernUp was recognised for their innovative applications on tracking toilet usage and detecting clogged pipes.

“We did two hacks,” said Samuel Rajkumar, from the winning team TernUp. “One, to track toilet usage based on sensors that detect door operation and the other one to detect clogged pipes. These were simple hacks and we hope that they inspire people to find simple solutions to the problems that we have around us.”

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim speaks to the hackers gathered around the world

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