The Future of Water Supply System Design in Rural Africa

The Future of Water Supply System Design in Rural Africa

A multifunctional design for community economic and physical well-being

Design thinking was the starting point to future forecast the African rural regions’ problems. The motivation for this project is the growing African population without access to clean water, resulting in malnutrition and other diseases. Scientists predict that, by 2030, desertification will further affect food security. At the same time, rising temperatures in Africa’s large lakes may erode fisheries.

The outcome of this project is a multifunctional system design that can be applied (in 2030) to help the rural African people’s physical well-being and economic independence. This solution was approached through creative problem solving rather than focusing merely on visual creativity. Kevin McCullagh defined problem solving as “analytical interpretation of the current world.” Designers should have knowledge of the problem domain, use analytical thinking and bring innovation in today’s context.

The methods we used include contextual research, hard, soft and mega trends, expert opinions, blue-sky and scenario generation. First, future research was begun by doing contextual research investigating the location, economy and socio-cultural factors. Investigation was made into hard trends in African population growth and the countries’ economies including their volume of the crop production and economically active population, while also searching for soft trends chronologically in order to study existing solutions and their technologies. From this trend observation it was found that evolving technology coupled with design thinking could lead to an innovative futuristic water supply system that would offer new opportunities to rural African communities.

Health and environmen was then extrapolated from the mega trends towards 2030 and converged into the future design. This type of trend exploration is also emphasised by many Brunel future design presentation speakers, such as Simon Black (DesignBridge) and Richard Walzer (NewEdge): “It provides rationale for innovative futuristic strategies”. In line with our team’s future design vision within the system, Professor Heinz Wolff supports science and technology to be the key drivers of future innovation, contributing to the“reestablishment of the social and financial sustainability”. Wolff also sees future innovation as “renovation”, meaning iterative innovation in technology. Emphasising his dual concept of ‘frugality’ and ‘mutuality’, Wolff believes that “technology needs to be attached to people” in order to meet the future challenge. This blueprint may seem like a grand utopian idea but it is firmly believed that current technology is still evolving and with design thinking, it can greatly contribute to the life of every human being.