Back in March we announced a grant to iHub in Kenya to help them host a hackathon focused on water access and safety issues in the country. Five months on, here’s an update on how they got on, in their own words:
The facilitator and the research team held several meetings to plan how the hackathon
would be conducted. Initially, we reviewed the research report to extract problem
statements that participants could address. The problem statements extracted from
report included addressing issues related to water access, complaints management,
water quality and treatment, and getting access to information on water projects in the
region. Simultaneously, the research team looked at active water applications and how
they worked. On comparison of collected information, the facilitator and research
team decided that rather than host a hackathon where new water solutions would be
developed, they would host a water ideation workshop instead. The ideation
workshop would focus on understanding limitations on existing water applications,
reviewing the challenges citizens are facing (as extracted from the research reports)
and designing new/improved ways to tackle the identified problems using mobile
technology. The output from the workshop was a toolkit to use to implement water ideation workshops in future for scenarios where there were already pre-existing applications not widely used by citizens for accountability.
The water ideation workshop was set to take place from the 10th to the 13th April 2013.
Key activities carried out prior to the ideation workshop included:
- Reviewing the research reports and outlining problem statements that participants could work on.
- Inviting Stakeholders (water companies, officials from the Ministry of Water and Irrigation in Kenya, representatives from NGOs working in the water sector and water technology companies). Email invitations were sent out as well as a blog post informing the iHub community on the event.
- Preparing materials (sticky notes, markers, pens, notebooks) that participants would use for the workshop.
- Setting up the space for the workshop.
Despite the comprehensive preparatory work and studies, on the first day of the workshop only ten participants turned up, with lots of organisations issuing last minute apologies. Despite this and the tense political climate in the country at the time, the iHub team and participants were able to discuss their needs and frustrations and plan a way forward. The solutions that were generated from the ideation workshop were quite similar to one existing mobile application in the water sector – MajiVoice. The research team has since initiated talks with the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company to request for the permission to research on how the citizens are currently using the water application. Talks are ongoing, although iHub hope that concrete steps can be taken over the coming months.
iHub’s experiences give a good sense of some of the challenges faced by many of our grantees – unfavourable political conditions, stakeholder apathy and the need to change things at the last minute. Very few projects ever run according to the timeline and project design laid out in a proposal – things change or get cancelled. The best organisations can adapt to this and iHub would seem to have done an admirable job in this regard. We look forward to hearing the outcome of negotiations with the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company and hope to keep you updated.