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Somehow linking cell phones into the picture - making sanitation sexy!

Knowing that there's more cell phones than toilets in Africa, and that they're an aspirational purchase for families of low income, how can we link this sexiness into toilets?

Photo of Andy Narracott
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My thoughts were triggered from this article from IRC:

India: Cell phones may end up bringing toilets: While India now has more than 670 million cell phones, only 366 million Indians have access to a private toilet or latrine, leaving 665 million to defecate in the open.

And after a quick search, saw as another innovative use of cell phones with sanitation:

which says "Do you ever find yourself desperately looking for a clean toilet in the city? MizPee finds the closest, cleanest toilet and gives you entertaining reading material once you get there. Since the service is cell phone-based, it's always with you, when you really need it."

And seen today on the wall of a toilet at Johannesburg's Tambo International Airport - a customer service sign asking users of the toilet to tell them how clean the toilet is, and if they're satisfied with the service.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jocelyn Wyatt

Could there be a way to use cell phones to document the status of public toilets in Ghana? Perhaps photos could be taken of public toilets in disrepair to let donors, the government, or the private operators to know they need to be fixed/cleaned.

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What about an SMS "petition" to get people engaged with the issue? For example, a person can "vote" or "be counted" by texting in a code and the phone company (or whoever) can donate services or money to an area.

Or use the cameras on the phone - crowdsource what a lack of sanitation looks like, and bring the campaign to wealthier nations' bar bathrooms - "You're going now, but imagine if you had to go HERE" with a pic of what bathrooms in some of these countries look like, and then a prompt to text in a short code for a donation to a group that can improve facilities.

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Nice discussion guys. We're looking forward to Concepts which build on this Inspiration!

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This is a great idea, Andy. A wonderful way to leverage existing behaviors and assets to create widespread change!

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Have you guys heard of the Charmin toilet paper (P&G brand) iPhone app called Sit or Squat? It helps users find the cleanest bathrooms worldwide and it's created quite a buzz:
I think the idea of leveraging the "cool" factor of cell phones in a sanitation campaign is really clever. I wonder how we could create an engaging and culturally-relevant cell phone/bathroom campaign that might also help educate people on waste disposal, where to find clean toilets etc? Great idea!

Photo of Vincent Cheng

Hi Andy,
When you have more cell phones than toilets, there's bound to be opportunities based on this disparity. Thanks for the links to some interesting examples. Definitely got my wheels turning.

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Someone on another site I participate on suggested the idea of bicycle powered cell phone charging. If toilet cleaners are kept informed of what needs doing by cell phone, and use bicycles to get around, it would be great if they could charge their phones at the same time.