Addressing the Water Crisis through Open Innovation Approaches

Published Nov-15-16

A novel innovation to simplify the detection of water leaks can help Vietnam address some of its most pressing water problems.

Embassy of Sweden in Hanoi, Viet Nam

The Story:

Addressing the Water Crisis through Open Innovation Approaches For many years, the world has been in the midst of a global water crisis. According to the World Health Organization, 663 million people (1 in 10) lack access to safe water, and by 2025 two thirds of the world's population may face water shortages, say the World Wildlife Fund.

Water may cover 70% of our planet but only 3% of the world's water is fresh. Solving these and other water issues requires bold and innovative approaches and with we being smarter than me, governments, NGOs and other entities are turning to open innovation approaches for solutions.

Vietnam’s Water Problems

Vietnam is one of many countries faced with pressing water challenges. They include water pollution as a result of industrialization and chemical usage, acid rain caused by fossil fuel dependent industries, crop failure due to drought or poor water quality and managing water resources during droughts. One example of water management problems in the country can be seen in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly called Saigon) where for every 100 cubic meters of tap water 30 cubic meters were wasted, in 2015.

To help address Vietnam’s water challenges, the Embassy of Sweden in Hanoi and the Agency for Water Resources Management under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, in cooperation with Swedish companies operating in Vietnam launched the 2016 Smart Water Innovation Contest. This was a nationwide open innovation call aimed at students in higher education.

Submissions came in from across the country and were assessed by a judging panel that included experts in the sustainable management of natural resources.

Open Innovation Competition Winners

The first prize was awarded to three students from HCM City University of Technology for a cell phone app that can detect leaks of water supply systems. "When people detect leakages, they just need to open the app and GPS will reveal their locations. This app can also include a city map or the structure of a building,” said Nguyen Tran Quang Khai, one of the members of the winning team. Once leaks have been detected, the app will notify the relevant water management agency.

The first runners up prize was awarded to a student team from the Hanoi University of Technology for a system for collecting and treating rain water developed from a natural material made from cactus plants.

The second place runners up hailed from An Giang University. Their proposal was to design a fresh water distillation system for households in the Mekong Delta.

Collaborative Solution Creation

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to global water problems, and the role of innovation - including open innovation methodologies - is becoming increasingly important. Collaborative solution creation is needed as the very best solutions can come from co-creative environments among diverse individuals and groups.

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