After years in the IT industry, Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson went back to university to study geology and hydrology. He had tired of the money-making machine of big tech companies. Even creating his own start-ups wasn’t enough of an escape. Then, at the Stockholm World Water week in his native Sweden, Bjelkeman-Pettersson found himself in the middle of discussions about solving water issues — and he saw a link between modern communication and change that he thought many of the leaders at the conference were missing. He found that the water community wasn’t taking advantage of the technology that could make their mission more efficient and integrated.
So Bjelkeman-Pettersson decided to combine his two areas of expertise and co-founded Akvo Foundation, a nonprofit that builds open-source Internet software tools to track water developments. The software includes a project-visualization builder, a system for surveys that uses mobile phones, and a way to track development aid funds once they leave the pockets of donors or taxpayers.
Akvo provides an efficient way for people to comprehend global water and sanitation issues — and to contribute to their solution through new technologies. “The whole water sector is kind of slow and stuck and not really appreciating the big change that’s going to come when we can map the whole world, when we can have a data point for everything,” Bjelkeman-Pettersson says. “We’ve sat down together as equals and said, ‘What can we do together to make a difference?’”
Lydia Belanger is an editorial intern for Circle of Blue. She studies journalism as an undergraduate at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.
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