BANGKOK — For years, Susan Davis heard the same reports of failed or broken water systems presented at water and sanitation conferences all over the world. Innovations presented at most gatherings, meanwhile, usually focused on gadgets or “things” — often versions of the latrines, filters or dispensers that were failing elsewhere.
Davis, a WASH expert who has previously worked for Water.org, Water for People, and CARE, founded research and consulting firm Improve International in 2011 to help end the unacceptably high failure rates of water and sanitation interventions in developing countries.
Still, unproven new products continue to enter the sector and grab headlines, often buoyed by one-off innovation prize money.
“You can't fault people for saying ‘this is a huge problem,’ and for wanting to solve it,” said Davis of the fact that 844 million people lack access to basic drinking water service and 4.5 billion lack safely managed sanitation, according to a 2017 report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.