IBM Taps Big Data to Help Solve Water Challenges Across South Africa
"WaterWatchers," a new mobile app, harnesses the power of crowdsourcing
JOHANNESBURG, March 22, 2013
JOHANNESBURG, March 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --IBM (NYSE: IBM)marks World Water
Day with the launch of a crowdsourcing project to help capture, share and
analyze information about the water distribution system in South Africa. The
project, called "WaterWatchers," is driven by a new mobile phone application
and SMS capability that will enable South African citizens to report water
leaks, faulty water pipes and general conditions of water canals. Every update
will provide vital data points to an aggregated "WaterWatchers" report to
create a single view of the issues challenging South Africa's water
(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20090416/IBMLOGO )
The free app, which is currently available for Android and available for
download at www.ibmwaterwatchers.co.za, and the SMS capability* together
provide an easy way for anyone to collect and report issues on local waterways
and pipes to a centralized portal. After taking a photo and answering three
simple questions about the particular water canal or pipe, the data is
uploaded in real-time to a central database. After 30 days, the data will be
analyzed and aggregated into a meaningful "leak hot spot" map for South
"This project is about analyzing use, predicting demand and managing the
future of our country's water," said IBM South Africa Smarter Planet Executive
Ahmed Simjee. It's a unique exercise in crowdsourcing for South Africa and we
encourage every person to become a 'citizen scientist'- to engage with the
environment and help create a big picture map of our water leaks and issues.
By enabling countless individuals to gather and submit data, WaterWatchers
represents a new kind of data aggregation, analytics and visualization for
water planners in South Africa – and is exactly the kind of Big Data challenge
IBM excels at solving."
IBM began exploring crowdsourcing to address water related issues in the city
of San Jose, California, with its CreekWatch mobile app, which is still
available and currently being used in more than 25 countries. WaterWatchers
was adapted from the CreekWatch concept to include additional capabilities
such as SMS and the ability to share photos on social networks such as
Facebook and Twitter.
Under spending on water in South Africa has seen the department of water
affairs increase spending by 20% to R9 billion ($900M USD) in 2011- 2012.
Similarly, spending on water sector management has increased by 28.8% year on
year over the same period and spending on water infrastructure management has
risen by 13.2% year on year. But the pressure of urban population influx
continues to place more strain on ageing water infrastructure. According to
the 2011 Census, ninety-three percent of South African households had access
to safe water in 2010 but only 45% of those with access to water actually had
it in their homes.
A WaterWatchers report will be made available to local municipalities, water
control boards and other water system stakeholders once the data is filtered
appropriately. This could help local municipalities vizualise and prioritize
improvements to city water infrastructure.
The WaterWatchers platform holds enormous potential for similar applications
that can be used to monitor and report on just about any aspect of one's
environment: city services (report potholes, late buses), wildlife, noise
pollution, air quality, weather and more.
"This project is a natural extension of the work we have done to address
non-revenue water in Tshwane with IBM, and as the capital city we will lead
the roll out of this program nationally," said Tshwane Executive Mayor,
Councillor Kgosientso Ramokgopa. "We challenge other cities to join the
initiative and help manage this precious resource as best as we can."
Interest in IBM's Smarter Planet strategy to transform growing cities and
address massive urbanisation in the South Africa has grown rapidly. The City
of Johannesburg has strategically addressed its 2030 vision and partnered with
IBM to develop a roadmap for Smarter Public Safety. The City of Tshwane has
led the way in addressing water challenges, addressing ever increasing water
scarcity and the requisite water conservation with a nine point plan developed
by IBM Corporate Service Corps in 2011.
For more information about IBM Smarter Water, visit
* SMS 45946 - cost per SMS is R1.50, T's and C's free SMS's do not apply
Contact: Jenny Hunter
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