November 16, 2016
This post originally appeared on The Guardian.
Innovation is often cited as an enabler of sustainable development. Donors, NGOs and governments support new initiatives and technologies to reach the millions who lack access to water and sanitation, and a number of prizes and challenges encourage entrepreneurs to develop solutions to the same problems.
But does the water, sanitation and hygiene sector (Wash) need such innovation? “There isn’t much that needs improvement about having a tap connected to mains water and using a toilet that flushes into a sewer,” says Remi Kaupp, urban sanitation specialist at WaterAid. “The main ingredients needed to achieve universal water and sanitation coverage are well known, and they are not glamourous.”
The problem, it seems, is equating innovation and invention. “I think the technologies [we need] exist today,” says Jayanthi Iyengar of Xylem. “What we need is innovation around how we speed up their implementation, and how we unlock financial opportunities for local communities or countries.” Indeed, new approaches to financing access to water and sanitation, such as levies and development impact bonds, are gaining traction as solutions in the sector.
So where is innovation needed most? What are the interesting inventions that work? How can obstacles to innovation be addressed? And how can we ensure that any new initiatives are meaningful and do not cover the same ground as others?
Join an expert panel on Thursday 17 November, from 3pm to 4.30pm GMT, to discuss these questions and more.