Gates Foundation Shines a Light on the ‘Poop Guy’ and India’s Sanitation Problem

poop guySome problems can’t be solved by technology alone. That’s the realization a man named Swapnil came to in India, when faced with the question of why so many toilets in India go unused, with people in increasingly crowded cities opting to defecate outside, instead. So, he’s doing something about it, with no special tech required.

He’s called the Poop Guy (even has a business card!), and he’s taken to the title. He earned it by concerning himself with the parlous state of India’s public bathrooms. They’re poorly ventilated, rarely cleaned, and often don’t have running water – it might come as no surprise that nobody really wants to use them. So, Swapnil is setting about cleaning those bathrooms and making sure that they’re properly equipped. It’s an effort that’s grown big enough to earn the attention of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Swapnil’s basic approach – getting the little details right to make people actually want to use public bathrooms – looks like it’s starting to gain traction. According to him, it’s about focusing on psychology instead of technology.

Sanitation is a key issue, besides the obvious effects. Swapnil is doing it for dignity, especially for his young daughter, but there are many more externalities to consider. India’s horrific sexual violence problem isn’t helped by the fact that women often need to expose themselves outside to address a basic human need. Swapnil’s efforts should go a long way in addressing that, by making bathrooms cleaner and safer for everyone.

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