In South Africa, 5.3 million people live in informal dwellings. Despite this significant number, there are currently no data sets that can help us understand the lived experiences of South African citizens in informal settlements. Subsequently entrepreneurs, communities and organisations who are trying to design impactful solutions in the informal dwelling space are making their decisions based on assumptions. Levering citizen science to gather a national data set on key indicators of liveability will aid EWB-SA and others to conceptualise design solutions that have the potential to tangibly improve health, well-being and living comfort in informal settlements.
The bottom line is, you cannot change what you cannot measure.
With this ethos in mind, EWB-SA set out to host their first ever Design Challenge. Students were invited to enter the Design Challenge hosted in their city and design a sensor network that could later be deployed across South Africa. They were then tasked with solving one or more of ten innovation challenges all focused on a practical, sustainable, scalable way to collect data for a period of one year.
From 18th to 20th August, EWB-SA in partnership with Geekulcha and Tshimologong IoT Lab, hosted the IoT for Social Good (IoT4SG) Design Challenge in Johannesburg. Three teams, The Ones, Big Connectors and The Prototypes all submitted conceptual designs and became finalists in the national challenge. The teams, consisting of both EWB-Wits and EWB-UJ students, were then given an additional four weeks to work on improving their prototypes.
From the 9th to the 11th of September, the Design Challenge was held in collaboration with the NCDevHack in Kimberley. Students were able to enter one of four categories, Accelerating Economic Growth, Digitalising Tourism, Open Data for Education or Internet of Things for Social Good. Only one team entered the IoT4SG challenge; coming up with an innovative way to get buy-in and help from local communities in deploying the sensor network. They ended up winning the hackathon, becoming finalists in the national challenge. They are currently working on the next iteration of their design.
The most recent challenge took place on the 16th and 17th of September in Pretoria in partnership with the Innovation Hub. This time four teams entered the challenge, a combination of EWB-UP and EWB-TUT students. All four were entered into the national challenge, once again impressing the judges with their creative problem solving skills.
As soon as all eight teams complete their final submissions, the challenge will be judged at a national level and EWB-SA will lead the next phase of the project where the sensors are built and then deployed across the informal sector in South Africa.
Written by Nikita Vala