Basic sanitation services are still inaccessible for 2.4 billion people around the world, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Not having some basic hygiene services has an impact on people’s lives in very different and significant ways. In Kenya and Zambia, a school without toilets means that girls are forced not to attend class when they have their period, which directly impacts their learning and their empowerment in society. The situation is so serious that ensuring access to safe drinking water and something as basic as a toilet or sink is one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.In order to curb this situation, Lindsey Noakes co-founded Gather alongside John Peter Archer, an initiative for which Noakes has become one of the winners of Innovators Under 35 Europe 2018 from MIT Technology Review. The project trains local young people to collect data on their cities’ sanitation services. In December 2017, the initiative managed to collect data on access to toilets from 60,000 people in Nairobi (Kenya), and in March of this year, on the access of 80,000 people in Mathare, a village in the same city.
“The project [Gather] unites the three most important issues of the moment: community participation (with local training) to resolve a matter as important as the crisis of urban sanitation using new technologies (data collection and analysis of big data)," says Luis Alonso, project coordinator for Andorra Living Lab in the Changing Places group at the MIT Media Lab and member of the jury for Innovators Under 35 Europe 2018. In his opinion, “although this is a project in its early stages, it is very promising”.
By Olga Rodríguez
Translation: Lisa Rushforth