Water – the lifesource of all living things on this planet is, in some areas, a commodity requiring work, and not an easily accessible alternative to a Coke.
Some communities around the world have spent their entire existence only knowing water sourcing as a full time job, making it impossible to engage in community development, family development, or even personal development. Technology is being used in some of these areas to increase the access to safe, drinkable water, providing these people with a new formed opportunity to grow.
Take, for instance, the endeavors of Meena Palaniappan in India. Meena worked for years in various developing nations, focused on increasing the quality of water sourcing and sanitation. She saw that although access to water was not always readily available, technology was…specifically, in this case, mobile phones. Meena helped spearhead an initiative called “Atma Go”, a mobile app which essentially provides communities with access to detailed information on nearby water vendors. In this example, communities in Indonesia, where the majority of water is purchased through water vendors, use Atma Go to find prices, locations, and phone numbers of nearby vendors, saving them time and money. This also levels the playing field for the vendors and helps avoid monopolies and price-gouging by those vendors.
We also see the development of simple but effective technology in rural communities based on an increase in communication. The Hippo Roller is a new water-gathering technology developed in South Africa by farmers who traditionally spent the beginning of each day gathering water. By communicating their frustrations and working on collaborative efforts, they invented the Hippo Roller, a 24-gallon hard-plastic drum with a steel bar. The drum is stood on end, filled, then tipped on its side, and pushed or pulled like a wheelbarrow. This provides much needed quantities of water with a dramatically reduced time commitment. Children can now attend school rather than make the 3 daily trips to the watering hole, and jobs like cooking and crop irrigation become much easier.
Some initiatives use business as a tool for encouraging growth. Take for example the Community Water Project in India. Created by businessman Ravi Reddy, this initiative builds cost-effective water processing plants in rural and needy communities who would otherwise have limited access to clean water. Many well-meaning private companies place oversized centers where water is needed, but they eventually fail due their unsustainable size. Ravi Reddy’s community-specific facilities are based on a sustainable business model, where the community spends a minimal amount of money to purchase clean water, and that money is invested back into the community through keeping the facility functioning, with community members employed by the Community Water Project.
Technology is changing the quality of life for many communities in many different ways. These are just some simple examples of how communication, collaboration and a more developed understanding of community necessities have begun to reshape poor, rural and developing communities around the world.