Designing New Tools for Mapping Open Defecation

December 21, 2012

The Evolution of a Digital Platform's Robin Bigio provides an update on the pivot that the Clean Kumasi project has taken after two weeks in Kumasi, Ghana testing the #crapmap prototype.

Hello CrapMappers!

Sorry for the long radio silence. We have been busy redesigning the digital platform informed by all the fresh insights from our fieldwork in Ghana. Here's a quick summary of what's been happening:


We spent two weeks in Kumasi, Ghana testing the awesome prototype that we all built together. Our first few days in the field were spent "speed dating" with different neighborhoods to select one for our prototype. We met with local assemblymen, elders, and toured various neighborhoods' dump sites, open defecation hot spots and public latrines. In total, we visited four different communities and finally settled on one: Ayigya.

The prototype went live on day six. Signs were installed, the SMS server on the Android phone began receiving and sending messages, and we started to interview users of our platform. On the fourth day of prototyping we called a community meeting via the digital platform and word of mouth. Over thirty people turned up, discussed sanitation, voiced their frustration, and formed a stable group to continue tackling the problem. And to show they were serious, residents launched into a big cleanup of a nearby dump site full of human waste.


Through our fieldwork in Ghana we learned three main things:

  1.  The power of our platform lies in its ability to recruit and manage like-minded community members, not to collect data about open defecation. With this learning in mind, it became necessary to redesign our platform from the signs to the platform's digital backend to that ways that it facilitates the recruitment and management of community members.
  2. The platform needs to rely on a voice based system rather than SMS. The people we met in Ghana didn't know how to send or read SMS messages. They do, however, know how to flash a number to get called back, and this is what we've rebuilt our platform around. Now people can flash (for free) our number, and we call them back automatically with an Interactive Voice System (IVR) that tells them what the project is about and asks what locations they are calling from. This information is recorded in our database and can then be accessed by community organizers managing group communication.
  3. In person community meeting are still the core channel to create change, and out platform needs to be designed to support this.

Back in SF, we redesigned all of our platform's touchpoints. New signs, a new voice based system (both in English and in Twi) and a new website replacing the Facebook app. will be live in a few days and it's designed as a public facing repository of our project learnings, progress, and process.


Now that we've wrapped up this phase of the project, the new platform will be relaunched in the Ayigya community in January. Our local NGO partner, WSUP, will continue to attend community meetings, organize CLTS sessions, and monitor changes in sanitation behavior.

#The WorldIsListening

This project and our hackathons have gotten attention from Bloomberg, Businessweek, The San Francisco Chronicle and tech groups in Ghana, too.

"During the eight-hour coding session, engineers fueled by pizza and beer tapped away on laptops, while designers scrawled plans on whiteboards. This wasn’t a crash project to develop the next killer app. It was Hack Sanitation, a quest to help educate people in Ghana about the public health risks posed by the nation’s bathroom shortage."

Full Businessweek Article >>


This project would not have come so far if it wasn't for support, creativity, and enthusiasm from our great project partners and the Bay Area #hackathon community. Keep an eye on to see how the platform progresses.


This project is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this story are the responsibility of and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.