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OGP #Hack4Water Awards premier at World Water Day Summit

The World Water Day Summit 2017 gave recognition to South African innovators who participated in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) #Hack4Water challenge which was hosted by OGP South Africa in collaboration with Code4SA, The Innovation Hub and the national Department of Water and Sanitation.

Deputy Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, in her capacity as South Africa’s Special Envoy to the OGP presided over the official handover of the awards which are part of the country’s initiative towards using open government innovations in solving daily problems that confront citizens.

The #Hack4Water awards took place at this 3-day World Water Day Summit 2017 hosted by the Department of Water and Sanitation in partnership with UN Water from 22-24 March 2017 in Durban.

The campaign for World Water Day 2017 was coordinated by a UN-Water Task Force led by United Nations Environment, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, United Nations University and the World Health Organization.

As part of its activities this event featured a high-level session, which culminated in the launch of the 2017 edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR) – the UN flagship review on the state of the world’s freshwater resources – titled “Wastewater: The Untapped Resource”. This Summit also made a pronouncement of the Panel Declaratory Statement on the recommendations linking the WWDR with High Level Panel on Water initiative on Access to Water and Sanitation for 10 Billion People.

The objectives of the Summit are consistent with the commitment made by the Open Government Partnership South Africa as we endorsed the “Declaration on Open Government for Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. This Declaration seeks to support countries with implementation of all 17 goals, though much of our emphasis is placed on Goal 16 which promotes accountable and inclusive institutions that are at the core of driving this sustainable development.

The #Hack4Water challenge which is a collaborative initiative with the Department of Water and Sanitation, contributes towards the achievement of Goal 6 which targets to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by these accountable institutions.

The #Hack4Water which was showcased at the Summit was thus launched to open a conversation around water issues and challenges experienced in South Africa with the intention of inviting citizens to work with government to find solutions to these problems.

The initial stages of the project led by Deputy Minister Dlodlo under the OGP sought to locate the activities of the Partnership within its proper context and spirit by ensuring that it adds value to real life challenges faced by South African communities and citizens such as water and sanitation issues, which remain a key global priority.

The project is anchored within the objectives of the OGP which seek to ensure the harnessing of technology and innovation in resolving societal challenges. In the true spirit of the OGP, innovation, co-creation and partnership, the project was presented to the Department of Water and Sanitation where various key specialists made significant contributions.

In spearheading and implementing the project, a proposal was made that crowdsourcing themes would be done through a UN Water Conference auspices. South Africa’s inaugural Water Unconference was held at Microsoft South Africa Head Office in October 2015 and attracted well over 100 participants.

Participants from across the country and all sectors of society were engaged and eventually made proposals around themes that they wanted to explore in more detail as part of possible solutions to South Africa’s water problems. These were posted on the unconference wall and selected for in-depth workshops. Some of the themes that were later synthesised into a cohesive and coherent programmes came out of over 30 workshops and included the following:

  1. Water source diversification: How do we enable people to source water in new ways, at a local level?
  2. More responsive monitoring and control systems: How can we build more responsive and accurate water and sanitation information and control systems, including decentralized community/citizen feedback methods?
  3. Infrastructure rollout and financing: What alternatives are there for water and sanitation infrastructure development and associated financing models?
  4. Accelerating innovation: How do we speed up the adoption of emerging technologies, including addressing perceived/ actual risks with new technology adoption?
  5. Behaviour change of big water users: How do we encourage change in behaviour of big water users, especially in agriculture?
  6. Increase water reuse: How do we encourage water reuse by changing negative perceptions around this approach within communities, and by supporting implementation of solutions?
  7. Small enterprises collaboration: How do we support collaboration, innovation and manufacturing by small entrepreneurs along water value chain?
  8. Community action: How do we go beyond raising awareness about water scarcity to drive inclusive community action & partnership in developing solutions?
  9. Building skills: How do we support development of mid-level water careers (including transition from entry-level positions, visibility of job opportunities, mentoring) and facilitate transfer of knowledge from retiring professionals?

The next phase of the project invited South Africans from all walks of life and communities who were then allowed to enter the campaign and competition by submitting a filmed video of between 2-5 minutes introducing their #Hack4Water and submit it via the website, http://www.hack4water.org.za, emailing it to hack4ater@dws.gov.za or whatsapping it to a specified number. Prizes were awarded in five categories:

  • Startup & researcher (mechanical/ chemical) – individuals, teams, communities or NGOs with majority of members over 25 years of age with mechanical or chemical solutions.
  • Startup & researcher (smart/ ICT)  – individuals, teams, communities or NGOs with majority of members over 25 years of age with ICT /Smart solutions
  • Youth or Schools: pupils or youth under the age of 25
  • Enterprise category: established small, medium and large companies
  • Storytelling: Journalists and individuals reporting on water issues using data and innovative and interactive storytelling methods

All category winners participating in the challenge are to receive one month of marketing visibility provided by the Department of Water and Sanitation as part of their nationwide water awareness campaign. This is to include print and online media placements, as well as radio and television slots with media partners.

The category winners as well as other finalists share various other prizes including funding of up to R300, 000 for implementation of a pilot project, and incubation of your product/ business with The Innovation Hub, tablet PCs from technology partners, travel to water events in South Africa to present their innovation to municipalities, water boards and industry, funding of R20, 000 for the winning story, and R20 000 for a school or schools to implement their water hack projects.

Some of the expected outcomes from OGP-SA and DWS in relation to the value-add of the project include the creation of mobile apps to track water quality/use, water quality assessment tools and the development of water infographics for public awareness amongst others.  From entries received, a database of ideas for improving water management will be compiled and a shortlist of high potential solutions that can be implemented and/ or developed and piloted.

The OGP-SA team is excited at the future prospects and interest that has been generated by the #Hack4Water challenge and project and intends ensuring its consolidation by engaging more partners and stakeholders that will work with the government and communities in ensuring the wide availability and easy access of the proposed solutions in order to address the water challenges faced by the country.