Indonesia Opens the Lid on World Toilet Summit
Image Credit: Flickr (Sustainable sanitation)

Indonesia Opens the Lid on World Toilet Summit


Some Thursday ASEAN links:

The World Toilet Summit, which began in Indonesia yesterday and will continue through Friday, aims to shed light on the plight of 2.5 billion people worldwide who are without access to a toilet or sewage system. Lack of public toilets and open defecation were the centerpiece of talks on Wednesday.

According to the United Nations, a million children die each year from diarrhea – about the same number as perish from AIDS, measles and malaria combined.

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“In Indonesia, 63 million people practice open defecation because they have no access to basic sanitation facilities,” said Naning Adiwoso, chairwoman of the Indonesian Toilet Association, in an interview with The Bangkok Post. “For many people in Indonesia, mobile phones are more important than toilets.”

She added: “There's a widespread lack of awareness about the importance of sanitation.”

The summit’s theme for 2013 is “Toilets and Tourism,” stressing that access to public toilets can make or break a city’s potential as a holiday destination.

Over in Malaysia, local media are reporting that U.S. President Barack Obama has cancelled a meeting with Prime Minister Najib Razak due to the American government’s shutdown. Obama will be replaced by Secretary of State John Kerry.

President Obama is also scheduled to visit Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines.

“We have not received any advice from the U.S. State Department on any change in President Obama’s planned visit to the Philippines,” said an official at the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs, according to The Inquirer.

Finally, to the west in Myanmar, an ex-Google executive has returned to his native country in the hopes of making the Internet a bigger presence in the lives of people there.

“Nay Aung, a graduate of Stanford University in California and the London School of Economics, has returned to Myanmar with a dream of cashing in on three high-growth-potential business sectors – tourism, online payments and e-commerce,” said The Jakarta Post.

While at Google, Aung was Google’s business operations and strategy manager. He has already established an online travel agency in Myanmar and is its acting CEO. He faces an uphill battle, as the nation’s internet penetration stands at a mere one percent.

The Post added: “Aung admitted that the most difficult task he faced was trying to convince business entities to embrace new tools and systems they are not familiar with, as well as finding his first customers, and then boosting that from 10 customers to a hundred or even more.”

J.T. Quigley is assistant editor of The Diplomat.

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