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International Sanitation Hackathon Finalists Announced

BY Julia Wetherell | Wednesday, March 27 2013

The Sanitation Hackathon website, with map indicating hacking site around the world.

Over one weekend last December, programmers in 40 cities across six continents took part in a simultaneous effort to develop tech-based solutions to sanitation problems. 1,100 participants in the World Bank-organized International Sanitation Hackathon ultimately developed 30 new apps, addressing issues from public defecation to inadequate menstruation resources to sewage disposal.  Last week the World Bank announced the top ten finalists

The ideas behind the apps that have made the final cut embody many of the prevailing themes of the hackathon. Several submissions included tools for locating public toilets.  In densely populated urban areas throughout the developing world, the prevalence of open defecation poses a major health risk.  Developing solutions through official governmental channels is often ineffective, as techPresident documented in its January report about Transparent Chennai.

ToiLight, an app from Indonesia that is included in the International Sanitation Hackathon Top 10, considers the fact that people who defecate and urinate publicly usually do so because they are in transit, often moving between the home and the workplace.  The app was built with Jakarta’s 5.4 million commuters in mind, with a geolocational map that finds nearby toilets and filters them based on cost and amenities.

For millions of women in developing nations, the lack of adequate public bathroom facilities carries additional complications. Empowering Girls, a Top 10 app that was developed at Trinity College in Connecticut by a computer science undergraduate and a technology teacher at a local school, was one of two programs in the first round of submissions that considered problems of menstruation in the public sphere. With an original target user base of girls in Cameroonian schools — where lack of sufficient bathroom facilities often prevent students from attending while menstruating — the app encourages participants to text information about their school attendance to nonprofit groups.  This data will allow for informed decision-making about how – and when – to implement improved facilities.

The winning app will be announced in April, in advance of the World Bank’s Spring Meetings

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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