Clean techies set to tackle dirty problem in Cape Town

With 2.5 billion people worldwide lacking access to proper sanitation, a toilet inspired hackathon will take place in 14 countries this weekend (December 1 and 2).

David Schaub-Jones, co-founder of Cape Town based SeeSaw, which will host the city’s Sanitation Hackathon, said: “What I am hoping is we can get some useful practical tools to help address the situation.

“I don’t think there is a natural overlap between toilets and mobile applications, but that’s what makes it interesting. You are really putting it (technology) to the test this weekend with toilets. You are taking something extraordinarily physical and trying to apply technology to it.”

The Sanitation Hackathon is backed by a host of organisations including the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Nokia.

It aims to provide technological solutions for the web, personal computer, mobile handheld devices, SMS or any platform broadly available to the public.

Schaub-Jones said while toilets and sanitation is not usually viewed as a high-profile political issue, it is in Cape Town, which is why the World Bank were so keen to host an event in the city.

Last year the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) went towar over who should foot the bill for the enclosures of 1,316 new toilets installed in townships around the Western Cape, turning it into a national political debate.

Figures released last year revealed there are now more mobile phones than toilets around the world.

Schaub-Jones added: “Some serious organisations are taking this seriously. Do I think technology is going to solve Africa’s problems? I don’t know, but I did quit my job in London ten years ago because I saw the potential here.

“The challenge with Hackathons is at the end of it everyone says ‘lets do this’, but then they all go back to their day jobs and nothing gets done.”

Town’s event will be hosted at the Bandwidth Barn, 66 Albert Road, Woodstock.Registration is free and eight places remain.

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