World Bank: More people have access to cellphones than toilets

More people have access to mobile phones than safe toilets, the World Bank said, as it announced that the Philippines is among the 12 global sites for an event aimed at using information technology to solve the problem of inadequate sanitation.

"With the number of mobile subscriptions exceeding five billion, more people today have access to a mobile phone than to a clean toilet," the World Bank said in a statement Wednesday.

The multilateral lender claimed in a report in July that there are 101 mobile subscriptions for every 100 Pinoys.

A recent United Nations report last month, meanwhile, said more than 26 million Filipinos have no access to toilets.

"The ubiquity of cell phones in the developing world creates an opportunity for mobile technologies to offer solutions to sanitation challenges," the World Bank said.

"[S]anitation shortages cost thousands of lives daily and billions of dollars in economic losses annually," it noted.

Related: See Korea's toilet museum

For the Philippines, the multilateral lender said not having adequate sanitation led to a loss $1.4 billion or 1.5 percent of the country's gross domestic product in 2005, which is the latest available data.

Such numbers prodded the World Bank to choose the Philippines as one of the 12 sites for a "Global Sanitation Hackathon," in a bid to develop programs and software that may help address the problem of sanitation.

"Manila will be the national host for the first-ever Global Sanitation Hackathon from December 1-2, which will simultaneously take place in the cities of Davao, Cebu, Zamboanga, Baguio and Bacolod," the World Bank said.

In Manila, the hackathon will take place at Globe Telepark in Salcedo Village, Makati.

Related story: 26 million Pinoys have no access to toilets 

Other sites for the hackathon include Jakarta, Indonesia; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Pune, India; Lahore, Pakistan; and Cape Town, Africa.

"A hackathon is an intensive brainstorming and programming marathon, drawing together the talent and initiative of software developers," the World Bank said.

This, as it noted that participants will "try to come up with simple applications that can be easily applied to real-life situations" in the 48-hour event.

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