IBM to accelerate global water solutions for vulnerable populations
IBM has begun to accept proposals for its next cohort of the Sustainability Accelerator scheme, which will focus on water management solutions.
This programme applies IBM technologies, such as hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence and an ecosystem of experts to enhance, as well as scale projects focused on populations vulnerable to environmental threats.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over two billion people live in water-stressed countries. This challenge is expected to be exacerbated in some regions because of climate change and population growth. Africa remains one of the most vulnerable continents with 418 million people lacking a basic level of drinking water service, 779 million lacking basic sanitation services (including 208 million, who still practice open defecation), and 839 million still lacking basic hygiene services, according to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
In Nigeria, approximately 70 million people had no access to basic drinking water services and 114 million were without basic sanitation facilities in 2021, according to a report released in November 2022 by the World Bank.
The report, titled, ‘Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership,’ showed that access to piped water declined from 36 per cent in 1990 to 11 per cent in 2021.
Recent events have also worsened Nigeria’s water security as the continent’s most populous country is still reeling from its most severe flooding in the past decade – which has seen cases of diarrhoea, water-borne diseases, respiratory infections and skin diseases skyrocket in recent months.
In alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, IBM will support projects that help improve equitable access to safe drinking water for all, improve water quality by reducing pollution, increase water-use efficiency across all sectors, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, increase sanitation management and reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity, among other purposes.
The RFP process will include input from IBM across disciplines, and from representatives from organizations such as Water.org and the United Nations Development Programme. The selection criteria will consider the applicant’s capacity and readiness to support communities that are especially vulnerable to water-related threats, technical feasibility and sustainability for the envisioned solution, and transparency on measurement and reporting – along with others.
“Sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the most water-stressed regions in Africa and globally due to factors such as climate change, increased water requirements, population growth, and poverty. With the recent developments – not limited to cases of devastating droughts and flooding – threatening the future of millions, addressing the water crisis becomes even more urgent by the day,” said the General Manager of IBM Africa Growth Markets, Julia Carvalho. “This is why we are delighted to extend our water-management solutions to organizations with initiatives that need them as they seek to empower communities to overcome these water challenges in a bid to drive water stewardship and ultimately, resilience in the region.”
This year’s RFP process will include input from Ben Mandell, Utility Services Expert at Water.org and Mary M. Matthews, Head of the UNDP Ocean Innovation Challenge and interim Head of Water and Ocean Governance Programme – together with other partner experts. They will share their input and expertise throughout the selection cycle. Kevin Pietersen, PhD, Research Fellow at the Institute for Water Studies, University of the Western Cape, has also been tasked with the responsibility of enforcing these selection criteria as a judge.
Boasting over 30 years of experience in the water, environment, geosciences and energy sectors and providing consultancy and assessment services to varied water projects across Africa, Pietersen will also evaluate the proposals and share input that will inform IBM’s selections.
“Innovation in the water management space is key for meeting UN SDG 6,” said Mandell, one of the judges for the water cohort selection. “Organisation initiatives that are selected to participate in the IBM Sustainability Accelerator will have a significant opportunity to make an impact with the help of IBM’s technology, expertise, and network across its large ecosystem of partners.”
Non-profit and government initiatives focused on water management can apply to the RFP from March 14th until the end of May 2023. The selected participants will be announced in November 2023.