Ubiquitous Mobile: Water tracking system
“Will I get water today?” In almost all of the cities in South Asia and at least a third of those in the rest of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, families face this question every day. These millions of households have a piped water supply; however, water is only available through these pipes for a few hours at a time. Due to the pervasive unreliability of piped water supplies in developing countries, households lose immense amounts of time waiting for water to arrive, with the costs borne disproportionately by women and by the poor.
NextDrop provides households with accurate and timely information about local piped water delivery, over cell phones already widely in use in India. In order to communicate with residents when the water is available, valvemen call the NextDrop interactive voice response system upon opening their neighborhood valves. NextDrop then texts the inhabitants of the area the news that water is being piped 30 – 60 minutes before it arrives, as well as texting the engineers at the utility live data on the water delivery. Residents are then contacted randomly to verify the accuracy of the data supplied by the valvemen. If there is any conflict between the data supplied by the valvemen and the residents, the engineers are alerted. These engineers are also able to step in if the valves are not initially reported open when they should be.
The NextDrop system, designed and set up by a team of Stanford and Berkeley graduate students, began operations in Hubli, India last year, having won a grant from the Gates Foundation, according to a report on MobileActive.org. The Hubli pilot initially launched with 180 participating families across five water valve districts in Hubli and NextDrop now plan to go on and expand to encompass 1000 households covering 25 valve areas over the next year. Crowdsourcing may be one of the simplest ways of solving social problems we know of; relying on the participation of those it benefits. What other social problem could you apply the model to?