News Feature | February 24, 2014

Tech Industry Invests In Water

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

GPSSatellite

The hot new cause in Silicon Valley is drinking water infrastructure. 

That's because Charity: Water, a growing nonprofit with the goal of bringing clean water to developing nations, has attracted the attention of tech entrepreneurs. 

How did the upstart nonprofit, founded in 2006, get such substantial support for the cause of clean water? As founder Scott Harrison began to grow his organization, he contacted some influential names.

"For advice, he cold-emailed Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, MySpace’s Tom Anderson and Bebo’s Michael Birch. Birch wrote back," Forbes reported

What followed was a lucrative partnership between the water project and Silicon Valley.

"Fast forward six-months and Birch had coded Charity: Water’s website, donated $1 million and, most importantly, introduced Harrison to his fellow tech entrepreneurs," the report said.

Soon enough, the nonprofit had garnered support from tech icons and investors such as Sean Parker, Jack Dorsey, Chris Sacca, Kevin Rose, Daniel Ek, and Shakil Khan.

So why were tech investors so drawn to the issue of clean water infrastructure?

"What drew this tech group, besides impressive networking, was Charity: Water’s high tech transparency. Each water project is tagged with a GPS monitor and linked to Google maps—letting donors see exactly how their money is going to work. You’re not just helping to build a well in say Ethiopia–your money went to the Ashala Wato community," Forbes said.

The investors also had to opportunity to keep tabs on the costs of these projects. "You can see photos of the well, and the precise location via GPS. More than half of Charity: Water’s substantial donors have journeyed abroad to see the projects first hand," the report said. 

Here's how Charity: Water defines the project it is trying to address with its funding: "There are 800 million people on the planet who don't have clean water. It's hard to imagine what 800 million people looks like really, but one in nine might be easier."

The World Health Organization explains that there are terrible consequences when clean water is scarce. For instance, "1.6 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases (including cholera) attributable to lack of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation and 90 percent of these are children under 5, mostly in developing countries." 

For case studies on clean water, check out Water Online's Drinking Water Analysis Solution Center

Image credit: "GPS Satellite Visibility Comparison," © 2011 ken2004, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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