“There are no systems in place to monitor these efforts and ensure they are working,” says Daniel Annerose, founder of Manobi.
Reports to mSchool are sent via SMS and mapped in real-time on a dashboard for the Ministry of Education, local governments, and civil society organizations to see and respond to.
But, says Annerose, “it’s more than just mapping the problem.” The platform also helps connect local businesses to a waiting market. “If we can map it and present to the Ministry of Education, then we can also offer a solution by connecting the artisans -plumbers, engineers, pit latrine emptiers, etc - to the schools.”
That means problems are fixed more quickly and efficiently. So far, the free and open source tool has been implemented in 2,400 schools across Senegal.
Yet the problems in sanitation clearly go far beyond just individual schools - they are community wide, and need the help of more than just teachers and students.
Since 2012, an Android app called mWater has allowed communities to test their own drinking water for contamination – a common problem associated with pit latrines and open sewers. The system combines low-cost ($3) water-testing kits and crowd-mapping software, allowing test results to be rapidly uploaded to an online map.
Yet John Feighery, mWater’s co-founder, realized that simply mapping water points was not enough.
“Most of the problems we observe in water contamination come from sewage, because there isn’t adequate infrastructure for sewage,” he says. “So we wanted to find a way to track causes of water contamination, to help clean it up.”
This led to the organization’s newest app, mSewage - a SanHack finalist- which now crowd-sources – and maps - the location of open latrines and sewage outflows. The organization hopes this will allow them to identify areas that have the greatest risk of disease, valuable information for local governments and health workers.
Eventually, says Feighery, “we hope to combine mWater and mSewage data to better predict water risk”.
Of course, collecting data via these apps is all well and good. Ensuring local governments, municipalities, and health workers, use the data is another thing.
“If no one wants to fix it, no one will”, states Mark Iliffe, co-founder of Taarifa, an open source web application for collecting information and building interactive maps, developed by programmers in Britain, Germany, the United States and Tanzania. Taarifa was also one of SanHack’s winners.
Like the other apps, Taarifa allows people to collect and share their own stories using various mediums such as SMS, the web, email or Twitter. But it takes the system one step further- integrating it into a management system for organizations.
“Taarifa is not just about reporting or visualizing,” says Gary Gale of Nokia. “They are about trying to make this a virtuous circle.”
When a report is submitted- for example, when a person reports a buildup of water or a broken public toilet - it’s sent directly to the authority responsible for fixing that problem, whether a government ministry, municipality, or nonprofit. A dashboard then allows the administration to look at the report and “assign it” as a task to a person within the organization, creating a greater level of accountability.
Then, an SMS is sent back to the person who reported it, saying when it might be fixed.
The Ministry of Local Government in Uganda has already implemented Taarifa, and citizens have generated an astounding 17,000 reports.