“WaterHackathon” to Find Technology Solutions to Global Water Challenges

October 20, 2011

WASHINGTON, October 20, 2011 – Computer programmers, designers, and other information technology specialists convened by the World Bank Group and technology partners at NASA, Google, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and Yahoo! will compete for 48 hours in cities around the world this weekend to develop new application software, or apps, that solve water and sanitation challenges in developing countries.


Water is essential to sustain life and economic development, yet the number of people without access to clean water and sanitation remains daunting.

  • 2.6 billion people lack access to sanitation
  • Nearly one billion live without access to safe drinking water

Lack of safe water and adequate sanitation is the world’s single largest cause of illness, responsible for two million deaths a year – that’s four people every minute – most of them children. More children die of diarrhea than of AIDs, malaria, and TB combined. 


The first ever global WaterHackathon follows the model set by Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK), a partnership among these same organizations, in which subject matter experts and local stakeholders submit problem definitions which are then tackled by volunteer software developers who use the latest technology tools to create innovative solutions. The first RHoK event in November 2009 gave rise to applications such as I’m Ok! and Tweak the Tweet, which were used in emergency response operations following the 2010 Haiti earthquake.


The sustainable management of water resources has also acquired a new urgency in the face of a global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, increased food demands, and increased hydrological variability caused by climate change.

·         Irrigation produces around half of the world's food and accounts for about three quarters of water withdrawals worldwide.

·         Water scarcity will affect at least 30% of the world's population in 2050.

·         Climate change exacerbates flood and drought challenges as it makes water resources harder to manage, and increases risk and uncertainty.


WaterHackathon will take place simultaneously in nine locations, including, among others, Bangalore, Lagos, Lima, Nairobi, and Washington, DC. 


The general public is invited to follow the event live on Twitter at #waterhack.


“Water is at the heart of some of the world's most pressing development challenges.  At the intersection of technology and consumer-related data, we are seeing new opportunities to create and effectively use non-traditional solutions.  Are we really taking full advantage of now-ubiquitous mobile phones, mobile internet access, and social media tools to transform inclusion, citizen participation, and transparency in water management and services?  Are we using open data to full practical advantage?  It is in search of such non-traditional solutions that the World Bank is launching the WaterHackathon,” said Jose Luis Irigoyen, World Bank Director for Transport, Water, and Information and Communication Technologies.


“WaterHackathon represents a natural intersection of two focus areas of NASA's Open Government Initiative - open data and open source,” said Nicholas Skytland, Program Manager of NASA's Open Government Initiative. “This collaborative project enables us to provide data resources to the water sector and the developer community as they create applications that address some of the world's most urgent water crises.”


HP is committed to applying our technology, expertise, and dedicated volunteers to support and contribute to the prosperity of people and communities around the world," said Marlon Evans, Office of Global Social Innovation, Hewlett-Packard Company.  "We are proud to partner with the World Bank and Random Hacks of Kindness in their efforts to solve today’s water problems."


Microsoft is delighted to see the growth and continuation of the Random Hacks of Kindness model,” said Patrick Svenburg, Director of Developer & Platform Evangelism at Microsoft. “The chance to bring together subject matter experts around water and sanitation with software developers from all around the world is a unique opportunity to create open solutions that will directly affect the quality of life of people, perhaps even safe lives.”


"We are very excited to see the Water Hackathon taking off as one of the first Random Hacks of Kindness Community Events," said Christiaan Adams, a Developer Advocate with's Crisis Response Team.  


Among the speakers at WaterHackathon is Jeff Martin, founder and CEO of Tribal Brands and Tribal Technologies, which created the first intelligent database behind mobile applications that predicts consumer behaviors and interactions.  "Today, far more of the world's population has access to a cell signal than safe drinking water," he said.  "What we need now is a marriage of digital convergence to solve this problem - where mobile phones and apps help bridge this incomprehensible gap in a way desktop computers never did."

Media Contacts
In Washington
Karolina Ordon
Tel : +1 (202) 458-5971
In Washington
Christopher Walsh
Tel : (202) 473-4594
Natalia Cieslik
Tel : (202) 458-9369