Published on The Water Blog

Lessons from Hackers

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It’s been almost 8 months since the World Bank Group convened the first Water Hackathon.  The Water Hackathon brought nearly 1000 computer programmers in 10 cities around the world together to compete to build prototype solutions to challenges in water, including sanitation.  We had worked to help governments, utilities, civil society groups, World Bank experts, and citizens define their specific water problems.  Overall, more than 60 prototype solutions were built in response to the 113 water sector challenges defined.  Some of the winning apps are already being used and developed for scale-up. 

Other sectors considering Hackathons should read the lessons from the Water Hackathon in this new report [link].  One of our lessons was echoed in this article by Mike Mathieu on, which says, “It’s time to end the hollow calls to “create innovative apps” using our “high value data sets” and to usher in a new era of curated problem statements.” 

In fact, we invested a significant portion of efforts on problem definitions for the Water Hackathon.  Understanding the various barriers to service delivery or better water management is one of our strengths at the World Bank Group, given our local and global presence and our relationships with government clients.  This is exactly what is needed for programmers to look at these challenges with fresh eyes.

I look forward to the Sanitation Hackathon, also in the works, which could take place on or around World Toilet Day in November, 2012.


Julia Bucknall

Director for Environment and Natural Resources

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