In my attempt to point out that the most compelling nature of Innovation is one that touches and changes lives en-masse, I’ve decided to focus on the grassroots-level innovation (please see my previous posts on the subject), on how this can realistically make a difference in the lives of “the other 90%” of the world’s population, the urban and rural poor, many of whom survive on a measly $2/day or less.
Here’s a look at Water Matters, the most fundamental of all basic human needs and its most challenging, and how the simple mobile phone is bringing about changes that are probably unthinkable to most of us living in the developed economies.
I came across Water & Poop, a blog on water and sanitation, and the various ways mobile phones (via SMS texting) are making a difference across Africa and Asia pertaining to water matters.
Africa, Asia & Latin America: Information & Broadcasting
A number of programs throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America, from countries as diverse as Turkey, Indonesia, Colombia, Peru, Chad, Senegal, Kenya and Ghana, have attempted to use SMS to broadcast information about everything from handwashing (through a collaboration with organizations such as Global Handwashing Day) to water conservation.
An excerpt from Water and Poop:
When we talk about cell phones for water and sanitation we are talking about a broad range of uses and technologies. On the simple end we can use basic cell phones to transmit data through sms (text messages) or voice. We can get more fancy and utilize smart phones that run more serious operating systems and have powerful features like internet connectivity, GPS, and cameras. The above is an example of mobile phone use to improve Here are some examples of how people have started using cell phones to improve water and sanitation-related services in Africa and Asia.
These four cases in Indonesia, Tanzania, Kenya and other parts of the World, are by no means comprehensive, however, they illustrate excellent examples of how people are using mobile phones related to water, sanitation and hygiene. In summary, the uses can be categorized into the following uses:
- Monitoring and Evaluation – Cell phones can be used to collect information and relay data back to some central location. This fucntionality can be extremly useful for tracking progress of work and maintaining transparency.
- Information Services (for the end-user) – People can get information by calling or texting a specified number (in addition to the example above check out Google sms in Uganda).
- Gateway – The cell phone can act as a mechanism to enable a service (think about the Grundfos example above).
To date, none of these projects have really gone to scale. As you could imagine there are some huge barriers to success including poor cell phone networks (including poor coverage and a lot of system downtime).
Inspiration: Water and Poop