Summer Centered: Ken Ruto '20 Confronts the Water Crisis
The computer science major is developing Flux, his project dedicated to bringing clean water to those who need it in his home country of Kenya.
Three years ago, Ken Ruto ’20 had an idea. Now he’s put an initiative into action that has the potential to improve millions of lives. With funding from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, the computer science major has returned to his home country of Kenya to develop Flux, an enterprise Ruto co-founded with his brother dedicated to resolving the country’s water crisis.
“Growing up in Shabab, Nakuru, an underserved suburban neighborhood, waking up to a dry tap was all too common,” he said. “Water would only be available during specific timesof the day, most times early morning or late at night.”
The scarcity that Ruto and his family faced isn’t a unique occurence. Millions of households in Kenya and the greater sub-Saharan region of Africa share the same reality, with almost 50% of the country’s water supplies being lost before they can reach a family’s tap. As climate change develops and the water systems age, it’s only projected to worsen.
It was only after he took his first-year writing seminar, “Finding a Voice: Identity, Environment, and Intellectual Inquiry,” that Ruto was emboldened to address the situation with the aid of technology.
“This realization, coupled up with workshops around Design Thinking and Systems Thinking are what helped me conceptualize Flux as a solution to a problem that I deeply and personally care about: unequal access to clean reliable running water,” he said.
Since then, the project has made steady progress in tandem with Ruto’s time at Haverford. Last year, he and his brother received crucial funding as the second runner-up in the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge. Now, they’re breaking ground as they work on their summer project “Distro” in partnership with local water utilities services.
“A lot of water service providers in Kenya rely on outdated physical maps of their infrastructure or have no maps at all, and may not have a budget for a digital one,” he said. “Our goal for the summer is to develop an inexpensive geospatial mapping solutions toolkit that can be implemented by water utilities across Kenya to assist in better water-resource management and distribution.”
Ruto’s development of software for Flux is a highly effective and practical application of his studies in the Computer Science Department. He’s also been inspired by other aspects of his time on campus.
“Throughout my time at Haverford, from being a part of such an amazing community full of talented and engaged individuals to taking challenging but fun classes, I feel extremely lucky to have been able to develop a better understanding of how systems work, a holistic view of effective altruism in practice, and more importantly, I have learned how to find my own voice,” he said.
It’s an enthusiasm for the concept of community that Ruto pursues, whether it's in the classroom or working to secure water for those who need it at Flux. His project has put him in a close contact with the workers in Kenya’s water utilities and the households he’s helping.
“Hearing first-hand accounts and seeing the transformational impact that water utilities have on large numbers of communities,” he said, “has really strengthened my resolve about the critical role water service providers play in our communities, and the role they can play to fundamentally end our water crisis.”
Though the problem he faces is monumental, Ruto believes that the remedy is achievable, and he intends to reach it.
“This experience has shown me that it is indeed possible, not just in theory, to directly and actively work to create solutions for us, by us, in the now, to help rewrite the African narrative to one of resilience and prosperity!”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.