About a month ago, statistics came out that more people in developing countries have access to cell phones than sanitation services - in other words, it's easier to text than find a toilet. We can't discount the importance of technology like mobile handsets in places like India and Africa, but it's appalling to think that basic sanitation is non-existent in so many areas. Though changing the situation hearkens up some daunting numbers - at a cost of around $300 for a new toilet, an estimated $358 billion is needed to reach the 2015 goal for worldwide sanitation - one organization is stepping up to the challenge, and using the ubiquitous technology of cell phones along with Google Apps to accomplish it.
Nuru International, a 501(c)3 nonprofit focused on pioneering holistic, sustainable solutions to poverty, is using some Google platforms and Nokia phones to increase sanitation in Kuria, Kenya. And already, they're getting results.
Experts predict that by 2015, 2.7 billion people will lack access to sanitation. Rather than look at that number as a challenge to overcome, the Water & Sanitation arm of Nuru Int'l is looking at it as a goal to reach. But they need the right tools.
The organization has registered a Kenyan web domain name and created an account with Google Apps, providing access to each of the 60 Kenyan staff members. GPRS-enabled handsets have been purchased for about $40 apiece, and using these phones they can email one another very inexpensively.
Here is Carreon discussing how the simple, cheap technology is helping Nuru Int'l accomplish huge tasks:
The teams use the cameras on the phone to photograph and video the sites they're supervising and upload the images, keeping a permanent and searchable record of all their supervision activities. And, the use of Google Sheet is keeping their organization paper free, further reducing the cost of operations from supplies to office space.
Nuru International also works on issues of education, agriculture, health care and community economic development. Resources for non-profits are always tight, but with creative solutions like those Nuru Int'l has come up with, it's possible to accomplish enormous goals - like bringing basic sanitation to billions.