WHAT CAN SANITATION LEARN FROM ONLINE GROCERY SHOPPING?
Unlike in the rich world, the majority of people in African cities (like many elswehere) do not benefit from the luxury of sewerage. Their toilets, if they have any, hover above pits that have usually been hand dug.
In rural places that is not such a problem - when they pit fills up people can just dig another. No such luck in towns and cities. Someone has to empty it!
The problem is that the guys who empty it don't make a lot of money. As a result they cannot afford safety equipment and they are sometimes tempted to take shortcuts.
What does this mean in practice?
It means that rather than taking the waste they've emptied (which isn't very pretty at all) to the official dump site (where it gets treated) - they dump it in the nearest river or wasteland. Not good!
Click here to get an idea of the conditions we are talking about:
So - how can you help?
Well, the thing is that not all people want to empty their whole pit when it is full. They some times want to save money and empty only the top bit - so they can use it again. Or the pit is not very big - but the machine the pit emptier uses (often adapted from Europe or Japan) is.
Lots of small jobs for the pit emptier to do - all spaced out all over the city. And in city like Nairobi - that can mean a lot of time stuck in traffic. Or sat at home not working (and not earning the money to invest in safety equipment).
The plan - to learn from online supermarkets, netflix, dumptrucks in London - basically guys who have to co-ordinate their deliveries and their pickups.
Why? To save the pit emptiers money, have them emptying pits instead of being stuck in traffic. To motivate them to get to the dumping site and not use the river.
What the 'official blurb' says:
In the same way as an online supermarket groups its deliveries in order to save time and reduce costs, there is perhaps scope for pit-emptiers to better group the demand for their services, to reduce their cost base and better ‘organise’ their clients, to the benefit of both, as well as the environment.
And we want YOU to help!
(so thanks for helping)
Two places who can foresee this being used in their on-going programmes (depending, of course, on what you come up with) are:
- eThekweni municipality of Durban, South Africa (a co-owner of this problem)
- Kampala, Uganda, in project managed by Water for People and one managed by WASTE
- There is resonance in Dar es Salaam, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Dakar and other places too ....
Basically, we are trying to help turn this:
See section on Similar Projects and Resources for more on this.
Some data you could be crunching
- Scenario B is Durban (a real place in South Africa, where the municipality are helping entrepreneurs empty thousands of pit toilets).
See http://bit.ly/r7MmKN for the details of this
- to this we plan to add some GIS data from South Africa
- See some photos here http://bit.ly/p9VeNk so you can get a feel for the problem.
- See https://bitly.com/fullpit for photos and short explanations of the latest 'science' in this regard ...
- Scenario A is Kampinja (a mythical city in Uganda, but based on real data)
See http://bit.ly/oXKJGd for the details of this
Technical advice on what will and won't be appropriate in the contexts where we work.
Scenario B – Durban
Use android app (possibly based on ODK Collect?) to collect orders for pit latrine emptying services from households
Use phone's GPS to retrieve latrine record from GIS database (possibly using Google's Fusion Tables) populated with latrine positions
Allow update of the database record, collecting info such as latrine type, age, notes concerning access and a picture of the latrine
Web/mobile site which will allow service providers to view and manage the requests for emptying and group the requests by location
Web/mobile site should also allow service provider to overlay the point data for latrines with polygon data concerning ground conditions such as water table height, soil conditions etc
The CURRENT suggestion, in talking with a few techies (thanks Dave Taylor and Mark Iliffe) is that in the Kampinja scenario http://bit.ly/oXKJGd – you send in SMS to Ushahidi
and in the Durban scenario http://bit.ly/r7MmKN an android app with marketing people going round with it is also fed into Ushahidi.
These 'marketing people' I was talking about going out into the communities offering the services are freelance. i.e. not getting in business for one supplier but simply registering people's interest in having their latrine emptied
This spread the costs as they could market a bunch of things e.g. new latrines - and stuff outside the sanitation sector too – potentially.
So the Durban Scenario moves from helping an individual emptier to plan their trips better to helping people access the services by providing a space to register their interest in having their latrines emptied and letting market forces fight it out for who gets the business
The marketers could be paid on commission for referring the business
Scenario A – Kampinja
It would be nice for those within poor communities not to be charged for sending in complaints. Can USSD (rather than SMS) applications assist with this.
Most people in poor communities do not have 'smartphones' (although these are spreading rapidly).
The toilets are very unlikely to be mapped on a GIS system - nor have a unique ID that can be tracked via a database .
The City of Durban is famous for its innovation in this sphere and is looking to make it emptying model more entrepreneurial and better matched to the demands of households.
The android based Scenario B - is of particular interest to it.
See https://bitly.com/fullpit for more on the issues here ...
Water for People (www.waterforpeople.org) are working with pit emptiers to strengthen their businesses by providing them with new technology. They are working in Kampala and Tanzania on this, as well as Malawi and Rwanda. They have contributed to developing this problem and await news with open ears.
Waste (www.waste.nl) a Dutch NGO is also working with pit emptiers in Malawi and Uganda and can see a practical application of this.
GOAL in Sierra Leone (www.goal.ie) has collaborated in the past with the group posting the problem and has commented on the scenarios.