As the dust of revolution settles in Egypt, the country is beginning to face some of its other challenges. Chief among these is a scarcity of water. In fact, by 2017, demand is projected to outpace the country’s supply.
At the American University in Cairo (AUC) last week, dozens of water and technology experts convened to discuss and create solutions for Egypt’s water crisis. The Water Hackathon was organized by both the AUC Desert Development Center and the World Bank as a competition between 13 teams with prizes awarded to the best ICT solutions.
“We are looking for innovative ways to engage local communities in local issues,” said Carlo Rossotto, Middle East and North African regional coordinator for the World Bank’s GICT Policy Division. “The aim of this event is to bring young software developers from the skilled ICT sector, together with the water industry and with water experts.”
Contestants were presented with nine different problems relating to Egypt’s water problems including sanitation, flooding, drought, irrigation, equitable water distribution, and watershed management. Egypt’s water situation is particularly challenging because its main source of freshwater, the Nile, is slowly drying up due with increased usage upstream and high levels of evaporation. The first place $15,000 prize was awarded, after two days of brainstorming, to a team that developed a water distribution project that involved collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture, farms and the telecommunications sector.
In next-door Israel, concerns about water shortages have led to ocean water desalination efforts. The country began building the world’s largest reverse osmosis desalination plant this January, the last of three such plants that together are expected to provide 44% of Israel’s water by 2013.
Water Hackathon in Israel
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At the Egyptian contest, eight weekend vacation vouchers were also awarded to participating teams with the “best Hackathon spirit” and an LE 500 Diwan gift certificate was awarded to the audience’s favorite team.
“I am neither a software programmer nor a water specialist. I came here by chance and saw this event,” said a member of the winning team, Nagham Osman. “My being here shows that anybody can participate in finding a partial solution to the global water problem.”