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Competition Designed to Spread Basic Technologies

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A boy in Senegal with a smartphone reports on sanitary conditions at his school..

A boy at a school in Dakar, Senegal, reports the condition of toilets with a text-messaging tool.

Credit: Christine Fall/Manobi

The World Bank has organized the Sanitation Hackathon, a competition designed to identify promising solutions to address the discrepancy in access to high and low technologies in developing countries.

The three winners of the competition are set to be honored on Friday in connection with the annual meetings of the bank and its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund. The hackathon took place over two days in which more than 1,000 developers gathered in 40 cities worldwide to work on their projects. The winners of the hackathon will travel to Silicon Valley for meetings with venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who are interested in the issue.

"We would love it if Silicon Valley could take some of these applications and build them into sustainable businesses," says the World Bank's Chris Vein.

Because six billion of the world's seven billion people have mobile phones, while only 4.5 billion have access to toilets, mobile technology is being used to help address problems in the developing world. For example, one of the hackathon winners developed mSchool, a reporting system that lets teachers, students, or parents report problems with sanitation facilities at any of Senegal's more than 2,000 schools.

From The New York Times
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