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Water, sanitation and flood protection; Information and communications

Water Hackathon: Lessons Learned

The global revolution in low cost information and communication technologies can help address some of the developing world's oldest challenges in water and sanitation. Such was one of the conclusions stemming from the first Water Hackathon in October 2011, the lessons from which were released in a new report this week.

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With the number of mobile subscriptions exceeding 5 billion, more people today have access to a mobile phone than to a toilet. Convergence of widespread mobile phone ownership with new mobile commerce and location aware services offer new platforms for reach, transparency, and participation in achieving water security.
The Water Hackathon was a first-of-its-kind gathering of software developers in 10 cities around the world who competed to build software solutions to water sector challenges defined by governments, utilities, civil society groups, World Bank experts, and directly by citizens.
Other sectors considering Hackathons stand to benefit from the lessons from the Water Hackathon in the new report. For example, the iterative process of defining pressing problems was critical to a successful event, and also drew innovation from within the water community. This deepened their engagement and strengthened ties, both to one another and to the Hackathon community. This was also a point made by Mike Mathieu on, who said, "It's time to end the hollow calls to "create innovative apps" using our "high value data sets" and to usher in a new era of curated problem statements."

The Hackathon, which took place simultaneously in Bangalore, Lagos, Lima, London, Nairobi, and Washington, DC among others, drew over 500 technology specialists. Since October, over 60 prototype solutions have been built in response to the 113 water sector challenges defined.