Getting to grips with sanitation

Staff Writer

AN unlikely combination of hackers and sanitation experts came together at the weekend for the Sanitation Hackathon, a gathering of computer programmers and experts to find solutions to sanitation challenges.

Cape Town joined a number of other cities around the world, including London, Helsinki and Pune, in the simultaneous global event. A hackathon is an event where no hacking takes place, but where a gathering of people tries to solve a particular problem.

It took place on Saturday and yesterday at the Bandwidth Barn in Woodstock.

Participant Samuel Choritz said the event had been a success.

“It went really well. It was an exciting turnout. It was a really good cross-section of people coming along. We had about 43 people over the weekend.”

Choritz said about 15 hackers and a number of journalists, sanitation experts and social activists attended.

“A lot of passionate, committed people taking a real world problem and coming up with a technical solution.”

Choritz said the weekend had seen six groups working on six projects. One project involved the creation of an app that would allow residents to report sanitation-related service delivery problems.

Another would allow people to rate public toilets, so that anyone wanting to use the facility could check whether it was hygienic and clean.

Choritz said the global event organisers would support some of the better applications to take the work forward.

The hackathon’s website says: “The Sanitation Hackathon challenges programmers to develop innovative software solutions that address real-world problems in sanitation.

“During the months leading up to the event, subject matter experts and members of the public will create, submit and vote on problem definitions that highlight specific sanitation challenges that could be mitigated by innovative [information and communication technologies].”

The hackathon was launched in recognition that information and communication technology could transform water and sanitation management, the website said. It is a global partnership between the World Bank, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Random Hacks of Kindness, Eirene, Nokia, Open Cities, and Civic Commons, among others.


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