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Are You Looking For Magic On the Bottom of a Toilet Bowl? print story
November 03, 2010
Deep Jyoti, India
I spent the past two days at quite possibly the most interesting conference I will ever attend. The World Toilet Organization's annual summit was this past week in Philadelphia. Between sessions of indulging on cheese steaks, I attended many different forums about toilet innovations and making them available to the 2.6 billion people around the world who lack access to basic sanitation.
I was so fascinated with all of the effort being put in to developing toilet systems that can be easily constructed and used by the poor in developing regions of the world. I also heard various perspectives on why a great percentage of those 2.6 biillion people don't have toilets. I spoke with Jack Sim, president and founder of the W(TOILET)O for about an hour and a half yesterday, and he shared some incredible insights with me. I was questioning him because he has always argued that he wants to "make toilets sexy". I was a bit put off by that sentiment because I just want to make them available. I asked him about this and his answer was very illuminating.
His point about making toilets sexy is that many of the worlds poor don't want outsiders to know that they are poor. They will buy televisions and cell phones with whatever little money they might have, before buying clean water and investing in sanitation facilities. Jack's argument is that he wants to make toilets as attractive and as much of a status symbol as a cell phone or a toilet. In India, more people own cell phones than own a toilet. That is an astounding fact.