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Innovation on Tap in Gates Foundation’s Wash Challenge

Arm partnership challenges teams to tackle Global Goals for clean water, sanitation and hygiene using technology

Fresh Life

Here’s your friendly reminder to drink six to eight glasses of water a day. On track? Great. You’ve just enjoyed a privilege that almost 850 million people worldwide can only dream of: safe, unimpeded access to fresh water.

Over 800 children die every day from diarrhea linked to unsafe water, sanitation and poor hygiene, according to WHO – that’s more than one child every two minutes. Diseases linked to unsafe sanitation are among the leading causes of death in children under five. The statistics for adults are even worse, yet many of these deaths are completely preventable.

Tackling the Global Goals

In September 2015, more than 190 countries signed up to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals – otherwise known as the Global Goals – which aim to create a better world by 2030. Guided by a vision to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, the goals strive to enable all people to live their lives to their full potential.

Arm, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationUNICEF and The African Academy of Sciences (AAS), challenged innovators worldwide to tackle Goal #6 – the provision of clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for all – through technology-based solutions. This Grand Challenge Exploration (GCE) received over 700 proposals from 48 countries – making it one of the top five most popular of all time.

Fifteen finalists were eventually chosen, each receiving $100,000 from the Gates Foundation or the African Academy of Sciences to progress their idea. Of these, eight shortlisted teams also had the opportunity to attend a WASH Innovation Bootcamp, held at the World Food Programme’s Innovation Accelerator event in Munich.

Arm experts provided hands-on advice on how the teams could use technology to streamline their solutions, overcome problems and leverage the power of Arm technology such as smartphones, Internet of things (IoT) devices and artificial intelligence (AI).

Driving WASH innovation: the teams

CSSS Team: Community Sanitation Support System (CSSS)
Location: Côte d’Ivoire
Mission: Providing formal finance to enable access to improved toilets and professional waste collection services.
Fresh Life OperatorsTeam: Fresh Life Operators
Location: Kenya
Mission: Empowering customers to manage and evaluate their sanitation via an app, using the data to improve service delivery and waste collection.
H20³ Team: H20³
Location: Kenya
Mission: Sustainably bringing clean drinking water to communities via a solar-powered water ozonation system.
H2Go Team: H2Go
Location: Mexico and India
Mission: Connecting end-users with water delivery vendors to improve the efficiency, accountability, and transparency of existing delivery networks.
KCCA Team: Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA)
Location: Uganda
Mission: Developing an incentive-based reward system for waste entrepreneurs delivering services to the urban poor.
Pit Vidura Team: Pit Vidura
Location: Rwanda
Mission: Revolutionizing sanitation logistics by clustering demand geographically, making sewage removal more efficient and affordable.
Safi Sana Team: Safi Sana
Location: Ghana
Mission: Transforming waste to extract economic and social value. Enabling digital monitoring to improve cost-effectiveness and waste quality control; providing immediately accessible data to drive better decision making across the supply chain.
Urban WASH Team: Urban WASH
Location: Nepal
Mission: Developing a solid waste management system to promote waste segregation and optimise conversion of waste to resources, reducing pollution and disease.

Accelerating innovation

The teams joined the bootcamp at varying levels of development: some were still refining their concept, while others had been operating as successful small-scale businesses for several years. However, as local people with intimate local knowledge of the sanitation issues facing their area, each of them was an expert in their field.

This specialized knowledge – combined with the water and sanitation expertise of UNICEF and the Gates Foundation and the tech expertise of Arm – enabled them to make great progress extremely quickly, developing their ideas and bringing them closer to fruition in just a few short days.

As well as providing advice on how Arm technology could enable the teams to realize their ideas, Arm contributed to a packed programme of design sprints, business modelling, technology development and communications sessions.

“These projects are totally shaped by their context, adapted to the idiosyncrasies of their environment in terms of cost, trust, and logistics,” said Hector Montaner, Architecture Engineer at Arm and WASH Bootcamp Mentor.

“A deep understanding of local circumstances is an indispensable part of tackling these challenges, and each team’s determination and drive will help them to achieve great things.

“However, the projects also present an opportunity from a technical point of view, providing a test-bench for next-generation devices that can seamlessly integrate into their environment and genuinely contribute to a better world for everyone.”

WASH all team

Blair Palmer, Innovation Specialist at UNICEF, said “UNICEF is eager to watch the growth and advancement of these social enterprises and support them along the way. The key to scaling social enterprises is to invest time up front. Collaborations such as this can give them the right tools to do so.”

With ideas clarified and action plans honed, the teams took to the stage for the bootcamp’s climax – The Pitch, in which they each had just three minutes to sell their project as the ultimate sustainable business, targeted at improving society in the most direct way possible.

Although in reality this was just a dress rehearsal, since the teams had already been awarded their funding, it was an opportunity to persuade a sympathetic audience of government officials, NGOs, angel investors and businesses as to the value of their work.

Continued support from Arm

Teams will continue to be nurtured through ongoing activities such as a series of webinars focusing on continued development and skills-based volunteering opportunities for Arm employees, allowing the knowledge-sharing to continue.

“These projects are truly inspirational,” said Fran Baker, Arm’s Sustainability Manager. “It’s exciting to see the change many of them are already making in their communities.

“It really is a pleasure and a privilege to support them on their journey. Together, we can help to make a better world – not just for the fortunate few, but for everyone, everywhere.”  

Read our Global Goals Impact Report and discover how Arm is helping to create a better future for everyone.

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