Imagine living without being connected to water mains and sewer lines. In Latin America, where access to water and sanitation services is highly unequal, approximately 70 million people experience this reality every day.
In Summer 2013, Benetech Labs set out to create a platform that empowers water and sanitation community managers in Latin America to share best practices and improve their services, and that also enables institutional funders to evaluate investments in the water and sanitation sector. We’ve made excellent progress with this project and built a diagnostic tool to improve community-based water and sanitation providers’ capacity to provide water and sanitation services to their communities. I’m delighted to share that the Paraguayan government is now using our tool in a nationwide project that aims to advance access to clean water in the country. This is a major step forward in a collaborative effort to tackle the challenges that Latin American community water and sanitation organizations face.
We kicked off 2014 in Benetech Labs by convening our inaugural Labs brainstorm meeting. It was a delight to bring together a great group of leaders from the technology, philanthropy, social innovation and education sectors—for a deep-dive on two of our pipeline projects. The first is a clean water project, in collaboration with Avina, a Latin American foundation that advances sustainable development in the region. The second Labs pipeline project that we examined was 3D print-on-demand for students.
Gerardo Capiel, Benetech’s VP of Engineering, and I were here in San Bernardino, Paraguay, as representatives of Benetech Labs. We were invited by the leaders of Fundación Avina to investigate how technology could be leveraged to help organizations provide essential services, like clean water and sanitation, to their communities in more efficient ways. It was the perfect place to do so, as the conference brought together community leaders and water managers to discuss shared concerns about the future of these services across rural Latin America.