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Africa’s largest informal settlement boasts high-tech water plant

Access to clean and affordable water has always been a problem in the Kibera section of Nairobi. (Butterfly Works/flicker/cc)

Kibera, the Nairobi informal settlement that is Africa’s largest, is among the most destitute places on Earth. Violence, rotting garbage and disease are daily realities. Yet as Glen Martin writes for the University of California Berkeley Alumni Association, the area also is home to a high-tech water production and treatment facility that provides a safe, affordable alternative to low-quality, over-priced water trucked in from elsewhere.

The plant is so advanced that it can be monitored and controlled remotely via smartphones. It relies heavily on sensors, Big Data and cloud computing for operation. Up to 10,000 residents now have access to clean water, restrooms and laundry. The facility even boasts banking options, classrooms and a café. “It can be replicated anywhere, at any required capacity,” the article says.

The story of how this plant was conceived and built is recounted in fascinating detail by Martin. Several UC Berkeley alums were pivotal, including Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and John Gage, a founder of Sun Microsystems. A chance encounter between Tegla Loroupe, a legendary distance runner from Kenya who promotes peace among rival tribes, and Schmidt, an avid runner, also was central.

Click here for Citiscope’s coverage of improvements in Kibera and here to read about the thriving tech scene in another Nairobi informal settlement.   

Cal Alumni Association, UC Berkeley

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