Peer Water Exchange, invented in 2003 by Rajesh Shah ’84, of Bangalore, India, received the 2010 Intel Environment Award Nov. 6 from The Tech Museum in association with Santa Clara University. PWX, a project of Blue Planet Network, is a combination of process, technology platform, and people designed to unlock the global capacity and creativity of individuals, organizations, and businesses to solve global safe drinking water and sanitation crises.
The Tech Awards honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity. The Tech Museum, based in San Jose, Calif., and Santa Clara University recognized 15 laureates this year in five categories: environment, economic development, education, equality, and health.
With a decade of experience in water and sanitation, Shah pioneered the model of PWX to solve the problem of managing thousands of projects. PWX uses peer review, collaboration, and participatory decision-making to solicit, fund, manage, and monitor projects. More than 65 agencies have used the model, which now manages over $26 million in 23 countries. In addition, PWX AnalytiX — the first set of business intelligence tools for the water sector — was launched in September.
“The Tech Awards is an incredible honor, recognizing the ideas and passion that fuels their execution to change the world,” says Shah. “We are proud to be among those recognized for their efforts to innovate in technology and change behavior to impact the well-being of billions of people worldwide.”
Shah, who received a B.S. in electrical engineering from Lafayette, also completed undergraduate studies at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, and received an MS and MBA from the Haas School of Business, University of California-Berkeley. His niece, Kruti Suchde ’12, is a current Lafayette student, majoring in psychology.
Shah conceived PWX when overseeing the funding and managing of water projects for Blue Planet Run Foundation. He recognized the problem of scale: how to deliver thousands of small projects around the world and verify their impact?
He explains that solving the water and sanitation crises that impact over 2.6 billion people requires small-scale, grassroots projects using appropriate technology that can be managed by the community. “The community needs to own the project and change behavior appropriately so that the project succeeds,” he says.
Shah has designed his home in Bangalore to be water and energy efficient, aiming for self-sufficiency. He is also involved in designing, managing, and deploying water, sewage, treatment, and reuse projects in his community.
After working 10 years for Bell Laboratories, Shah completed his MBA and became a management consultant for CSC Index and other companies. He has been a consultant for the Tides Foundation, eGrants’ DonateNow, and EmailNow services, and served as CTO/CFO at The Natural Step, and Redefining Progress.
Blue Planet Network, based in San Francisco, is a non-profit organization enabling safe drinking water projects for people around the world. It was founded in 2002 by Jin Zidell.