Building on our experience of 4 years in designing innovations, engaging the youth and achieving resource savings, we’re launching a mobile app platform to integrate all steps involved in solving problems of water and sanitation so that anyone – from a young child in urban India to a small collective in the rural heartland – can be a problem solver.
Our experience of four years in this space has convinced us that the problem is at three levels:
1. Lack of local data: The problem of water and sanitation is localized in every country and needs a customized solution based on usage and behavior patterns. This local and granular data is almost always absent, thus providing the government and social enterprises inadequate data to solve the problem
2. Lack of local solutions: Without local data, NGOs, social enterprises and the government will create create a one-size-fits-all approach, and this possesses no long-term vision. There is a need to develop solutions with local materials.
3. Lack of engagement with local stakeholders resulting in poor ownership: Citizens, especially ones from low-incomes households are unaware of local governmental bodies responsible for better water and sanitation. They are also oblivious to various subsidies and policies of the government, resulting in little or no ownership of public infrastructure.
Our approach is to engage the youth in their communities through schools, teachers and other organisations using an integrated approach with technology. We would engage them through a four-step process, of which they can choose one or more approaches -
Discover: Discover the local problem of water and sanitation and help petition the government or provide details about relevant local government bodies - those who are assigned to solve the problem. This will ensure transparency, governance and allow citizens to understand their rights.
Investigate: Provide knowledge tools where they can understand the problem and provide local data
Solve: Do-it-Yourself solutions which would be customized based on the local data
Communicate: All local data, solutions and government responses will be shared with the citizens at large
We’ve indigenously developed several innovations like our low-cost waterless men’s urinal. The urinal set up costs less that 1.2 USD to make and the materials required - used water can, a ping-pong ball and a drain pipe - are readily available. We have gone a step ahead and have installed low cost sensors, to monitor usage & behavior patterns & are have developed various reward & incentive measures around it. We've created a portable grey-water based hand-wash system and are prototyping a female urinal design.
Going forward, we want to take the process that we have perfected to the next scale, in the hope that the 345 million youth in this country will each become problem solvers in their immediate vicinity. The numbers are encouraging - 60% of internet users access internet using their mobile phones and this number is expected to touch 317 million by 2017 - 55% of these users are between 12 and 30 years of age.
The mobile app we have developed will serve as a companion for every type of problem solver. It will serve as an information aggregator of government and local civic bodies’ contacts - institutions designated to fix the problem. For the curious who would like to learn more, the app has features to audit the problem to glean data-points on the extent of the problem and quantify the resulting losses. For the more hands-on, the app hosts a large repository of solutions from around the world, including some of our own. The app also has a social component where like-minded problem solvers can get together and spot-fix the issue.