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Hacking Away at the 2.5 Billion

Great minds might think alike, but that thinking is often limited to narrow areas of expertise. Enter the Sanitation Hackathon, which seeks to unleash a great-minds mashup on a pressing real-world problem: 2.5 billion people lack access to basic sanitation, which results in the death of approximately 4,000 children a day and billions of dollars in economic losses. 

At the same time, the number of mobile subscriptions is exceeding five billion; more people today have access to a mobile phone than to a clean toilet. The surge in mobile phones in Africa—some 94 percent of urban Africans are near a GSM signal—is transforming the continent. Farmers in Niger use mobile phones to find out which market is giving the best price; people in Kenya pay their bills and send money home using mobile banking. In India, the mobile phone is increasingly used in citizen election monitoring, and in equipping voters, via text message, with critical information on candidates. With ever increasing mobile penetration and falling prices of smart phones, mobile applications provides a platform to address these issues and an opportunity to solve problems in the developing world. 

In cities around the world from December 1-2, IT and sanitation experts will join forces for an intensive brainstorming and programming marathon. The goal is to identify actionable sanitation challenges and then develop and deploy innovative applications to solve them.

Born of a global partnership among The World Bank, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Random Hacks of Kindness, Eirene, Nokia, Open Cities, and Civic Commons, among others, the Sanitation Hackathon consists of four phases: 

• developing country-specific problem statements through a collaboration among sanitation professions, local governments, and community members; 

• engaging a network of partners in the technical and sanitation communities to develop solutions;

• using those solutions to develop new applications and; 

• scaling up and deploying solutions in target communities.

Hackathon events will take place in several cities, among them: 

• Dhaka, Bangladesh;

• Pune, India;

• Jakarta, Indonesia; 

• Helsinki, Finland;

• Manila, Philippines;

• Lahore, Pakistan; 

• Lima, Peru; 

• London, U.K.;

• Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and;

• U.S. (various sites)

The Sanitation Hackathon builds on the success and momentum of the 2011 Water Hackathon, which took place simultaneously in 10 cities around the world and led to the development of more than 60 prototype solutions to water challenges. 

If you’re in or near a Hackathon city, we’d love for you to actively participate in the on-site sessions. We also welcome participation from any location through this website, where you can contribute, vote on, and comment on problem statements, and also submit software app  ideas. 

We look forward to these diverse and fruitful collaborations and, most importantly, to their results—some of which will go on to become tools that will improve the lives of our world’s poorest children and their families.

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