We’ve had quite a bit of discussion about the failure to supply toilets on our site and elsewhere. Now there’s movement on using mobiles to help get working toilets in schools and elsewhere. “It’s something that can have a little more impact than helping someone find the nearest bar or restaurant,” said Gary Gale, director of global community programs in the location and commerce division of Nokia, which works with the company’s mapping technology. After the event in Washington, the winners of the hackathon are set to travel to Silicon Valley for meetings with venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who are interested in the issue. The World Bank does not plan to invest in the projects, but hopes that others might.
I was too gentle the first time. I thought the UN University was taking a cheap short cut to get publicity in the tough Indian media market. But if people are talking about this comparison of toilets and mobiles one year later, it appears that the cheap shortcut has been effective, more effective than I thought. Mobiles are personal devices; toilets are generally a household amenity. Except in Mukesh Ambani’s house, the number of toilets is generally lower than the number of people living in the house.
In an attempt to get attention in a hard market, the UN University has contrasted mobile penetration in India with toilet penetration in India. If telephones had been left to government, unlikely this contrast could have been drawn. So the conclusion? Get multiple parties to participate in building toilets. Far more people in India have access to a mobile phone than to a toilet, according to a UN study on how to improve sanitation levels globally.