[Kenya] Student developers devise IoT, solar water solution in IBM hackathon
28-11-2019 09:07:48 | by: Nixon Kanali | hits: 2195 | Tags:

More than 50% of the world’s cities and 75% of all irrigated farms are experiencing water shortages on a recurring basis—and climate shifts around the world are exacerbating the problem beyond what the water sector itself can address. For this reason, IBM invited Kenyan developers to take part in the IBM Digital - Nation Africa: Smart Water Challenge to create localized, sustainable solutions that address water issues related to drinking, agriculture, recreation, and/or protection of natural habitats. 

Drawing on the expertise of Kenya-based teams from The Nature Conservancy, Water Mission, and IBM Research-Africa, IBM asked the developer community for solutions to improve the management, monitoring, and forecasting of water availability and quality. 

Over 200 Kenyan student developers registered for the Challenge, ultimately submitting 38 proposals as individuals or teams. All participants received digital skills development, briefings on water-related issues in Kenya, and training by IBM volunteers for Design Thinking and presentation skills. The top eight proposal teams then presented their pitches in-person to IBM experts at IBM Nairobi offices. The winning team, Greatest of All Time (GOAT), won with a solution that uses IoT sensors for preventative maintenance of possible water pipe bursts. The solution also uses solar power to desalinate water from two aquifers discovered in Turkana in Northern Kenya.

Team GOAT consists of five students from Kenyatta University, University of Nairobi and Strathmore University. They posit their project can help sustain tens of thousands of barrels of water per day for the largely dry region by both keeping the piping system fully functional, and desalinizing water that was previously undrinkable for human consumption.

One member of the team, Sam Nyamwange who is an Environmental Scientist and Solar Desalinator Innovator said, “My hope is that this innovation, that has earned me recognition at the Cambridge sustainability university in South Africa will be implemented and rolled out in the northern Kenya where most people continue to suffer yet the solutions are closer home.”

Each member of this winning team will be offered paid internships with IBM in Nairobi, provided they meet standard IBM internship terms and conditions. And together with expert IBMers deployed by the IBM Service Corps, Team GOAT will explore opportunities for further development and deployment of their proposed solution to address clean water needs in Kenya. 

Another member of the winning team, Davis Too, who is a Software Developer said, “Getting mentorship from the IBM team during the open days gave me an opportunity to envision how best we would structure our proposal.” He continued, “my plan going forward is to get more mentorship especially with ideas from the IBM research lab as to how best to create workable solutions and develop their infrastructure in terms of user friendliness and cost effectiveness.”

The Challenge reflects IBM’s global effort to foster an inclusive approach to quality education and skills, while using technology to tackle urgent public needs. This is also part of IBM Digital – Nation Africa which provides 21st century job skills development opportunities across Africa. And this work is also connected to Code and Response, a multi-year $25M program dedicated to the creation and deployment of solutions powered by open source technology to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. As well as Forecast: Change, IBM's global campaign to raise awareness about water related issues and enable individuals to make an personal impact.