This is an excerpt of a blog post from Tomorrow Global written by Lillian Gu (@lillian_gu) who interned with the Campaign, supporting our Financing Healthier Lives project and the Health and Microfinance Alliance. One of the “interoperable innovations” that she describes in her post on Tomorrow Global is about how to make water sanitation solutions sustainable when there are so many different, incompatible water filtration systems, meaning there is a high risk of failure and waste. PATH is offering
an open-source solution to a design standard for water filters that is analogous to the AA battery. Will the market adopt this solution? To read the full article, go here.
Many of the technological innovations we enjoy today are convenient because of their broad availability and compatibility…The same balance of innovation and interoperability exist in international development. There are so many exciting and creative innovations out there to improve access to health, clean water, financial services, education, and so on. The long-term goal is always to move from pilot to scale. However, if innovations aren’t compatible with existing or emerging technologies, they will never scale successfully.
NGOs can also shape the market (Water Filtration)
The problem of interoperability isn’t limited to services, but applies to tangible products as well. Many home water filtration systems are donated to improve access to clean water. Anytime you donate a physical object, you have to think about long-term maintenance (see ‘5 questions to ask when donating medical equipment‘). With water filtration systems, filters have to be regularly replaced. Because filters are often expensive or difficult to find since they are model-specific, donated home filtration systems go to waste.
PATH’s C1 Common Interface is a design specification aimed at solving these issues. The idea is that with one common specification, all manufacturers of filters and water devices can produce compatible products. One analogy PATH uses is standardized batteries. It doesn’t matter if you need batteries for a radio or a flashlight, you can use Duracell or Energizer or a store brand. All size AA batteries are the same shape, size, and charge. PATH has already partnered with manufacturers to produce water filters, but they offer a free license so that any manufacturer is welcome to compete. The jury is out to see if the market will adopt PATH’s specifications.