Gates Foundation launches several rounds of reinvent the toilet challenge (RTTC) - and RTTC fair in Seattle in August 2012
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TOPIC: Gates Foundation launches several rounds of reinvent the toilet challenge (RTTC) - and RTTC fair in Seattle in August 2012

Gates Foundation launches several rounds of reinvent the toilet challenge (RTTC) - and RTTC fair in Seattle in August 2012 24 Apr 2012 17:35 #1456

  • jkeichholz
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RFLOI: Reinvent the Toilet Challenge (Round 2)
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announces the second round of its Reinvent the Toilet Challenge designed to prototype a means of dealing effectively and cost-efficiently with human waste for the 2 billion people on earth who currently lack access to safe and affordable sanitation.

"...prototyping and testing entirely stand-alone, self-contained, practical sanitation modules which intake bodily wastes and swiftly dispose of them without any incoming water piping, outgoing sewer piping or electric or gas utility services. These modules must intake all outputs of the serviced population – ultimately at single-residence scales – with minimal module footprints and assured biosafety. Thus, chemical and mechanical engineering approaches are preferred."

source: www.gatesfoundation.org/watersanitationh...oilet-challenge.aspx

Richard Holden already mentioned his thoughts on this new approach by the BMGF via the ecosanres Yahoo! group, so I am wondering what you, dear SuSanA members, think about these new requirements (bold formatting done by me)?

I personally like it that the high-tech approach is regarded as a plausible solution and hope that someone will come up with some sort of Magic Toilet 3.0 that may also scale later on. I also believe that these high-tech approaches must not necessarily be that bad. Who knows, maybe there's going to be a system that pops out dry pellets or anything else that we may dispose of safely?

As far as I read this offer, all mentioned requirements are some sort of Desiderata and a guidance for where the future BMGF support is aiming at - with a special focus on self-contained solutions. I understand that they are also only focusing on brown and yellow water, leaving an option for a future grey water treatment. Dunno about anal cleaning practices though and how to tackle this side.

What I especially like about the high-tech approach as such is that high-tech solutions may be an ideal marketing instrument.
Many people in developing countries don't buy/drive Lada or Dacia, but Mercedes and BMW, if possible. Similarly, the ideal toilet may also be a high-tech product and not just the typical low-cost, low-tech solution - and be something (that) people are willing to invest in. Something the slum dwellers can take along once they move around (like their TV & VCR sets - our main investment competitors).
So that's why I don't oppose any high-tech solution even though I am also very sceptical how such a zero output will be achieved (hence the pellets idea).

What DO YOU THINK about this?
Juergen Eichholz
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Last Edit: 24 Apr 2012 21:16 by jkeichholz.
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Re: Gates Foundation launches 2nd round of reinvent the toilet challenge 30 Apr 2012 11:34 #1480

  • JKMakowka
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Thanks for mentioning this.

I totally agree with your comment that marketing of "high-tech" solutions might be the key in some areas.

I have one question regarding the requirements though: Do you think a small DEWATS system connecting <100HH would still fall under the no outgoing sewer requirements? I assume not, but technically it is all self-contained and I guess that is the original idea.
Krischan Makowka
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Last Edit: 30 Apr 2012 11:35 by JKMakowka.
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Re: Gates Foundation launches 2nd round of reinvent the toilet challenge 30 Apr 2012 11:45 #1482

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Eh, I also don't think so ("no outgoing sewer piping"), so any sort of pipe is probably not desired.

I do understand their request in a way that they are looking for something completely new and not iterations/variations of the existing technologies.
Juergen Eichholz
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Reinventing the Toilet Challenge (round 2) - Gates - proposals due 10th May 02 May 2012 03:14 #1491

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Surely someone on this forum will win the funding prize?!

Tight deadline for submissions - by 10th May.

RFLOI: Reinvent the Toilet Challenge (Round 2)


www.gatesfoundation.org/watersanitationh...oilet-challenge.aspx

SOL: 1063751
Open Date: April 23, 2012
Proposals Due: May 10, 2012
Apply here with a one page LOI, by May 10th 2012
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announces the second round of its Reinvent the Toilet Challenge designed to prototype a means of dealing effectively and cost-efficiently with human waste for the 2 billion people on earth who currently lack access to safe and affordable sanitation.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life.

We concentrate on areas with the potential for high-impact—sustainable solutions that can reach millions of people. We work closely with our partners to support innovative approaches and expand existing ones so they reach the people who need them most. We also support policy and advocacy efforts to accelerate progress against the world’s most acute poverty.

Global Development
Nearly 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day. For one person in eight, hunger is a constant, potentially deadly companion. The vast majority of the poor also lack access to the most basic financial services, and only a tiny minority have access to the Internet. The foundation's Global Development Program is working with motivated partners to create opportunities for people to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. Our strategy is focused. Because most of the world's poorest people rely directly on agriculture, we support efforts to help small farmers improve crop production and market access. Because loans, insurance, and savings can help people weather setbacks and build assets, we facilitate access to financial services for the poor. In addition, because information can change lives, we support free public access to computers connected to the Internet. The newest Global Development program area — Water, Sanitation & Hygiene—focuses on sanitation that works for the poor.

The Sanitation Challenge
A large share of the solids and liquids people eat and drink are passed on in urine and feces. Human waste contains potentially valuable and recyclable resources such as water, energy, urea, salts, and minerals. It also consists of large amounts of useful as well as harmful microorganisms, mostly bacteria, as well as pathogens ranging in size from viruses to helminthes. Many diseases are passed on from person to person through the fecal-oral pathway—pathogens in one person’s waste end up ingested by another. For some diseases, this is the primary transmission pathway; for others, it is one of several transmission pathways. Human waste also contains residues of the many complex, engineered chemicals people use, such as food additives, antibiotics, hormones, and nutritional supplements, some of which remain in the environment and result in unsafe accumulation in waste sinks.

Water,Sanitation & Hygiene Program
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works with a wide range of partners through its Water, Sanitation & Hygiene program to reduce the burden of excreta-related disease and improve the lives of the poor. Our approach aims to expand the use of toilet and sanitation technologies that do not connect to a sewer, as this is by far the most common type used by the poor. We invest in effective approaches that help end open defecation and unsafe sanitation in rural communities, and we help develop the tools and technologies that will allow the urban poor access sustainable non-piped sanitation.

Request for Letters of Inquiry
The Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Program will be disbursing a set of new grants to support its Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. These grants are intended for exceptionally highly-qualified research groups interested in contributing to major advances in sanitation and hygiene in the developing world.

Successful applicants will participate in the next phase of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge: designing, prototyping and testing entirely stand-alone, self-contained, practical sanitation modules which intake bodily wastes and swiftly dispose of them without any incoming water piping, outgoing sewer piping or electric or gas utility services. These modules must intake all outputs of the serviced population – ultimately at single-residence scales – with minimal module footprints and assured biosafety. Thus, chemical and mechanical engineering approaches are preferred.

At present, the Foundation is soliciting letters of inquiry and capability declarations from groups, primarily in the academic sector and from for-profit organizations, who are well qualified to undertake R&D and execute pertinent program plans. Full proposals for grant awards are not being solicited at the present, but submission of proposals may be invited in the near future from those whose letters of inquiry and capability declarations are of extraordinary quality.

How to Apply
A single-page typed-or-printed letter of inquiry and capability declaration should be submitted no later than May 10th 2012 in order to be assured of consideration. This should concisely declare the nature of interest, relevant backgrounds and salient qualifications of Principal Investigator(s) and key group members, cite pertinent publications and the date by which a grant-supported effort could commence (after August 31, 2012 and before January 1, 2013), and the basic architecture, scale and key milestones of the contemplated effort to be proposed for grant consideration. Please note that submission of a letter of inquiry or capability declaration does not imply, directly or indirectly, that any such submission will result in an award of a grant or any other funding.
Non-Confidential Application Process. The Foundation does not guarantee that any information submitted will be maintained as confidential.

Apply for this LOI
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Re: Reinventing the Toilet Challenge (round 2) - Gates - proposals due 10th May 02 May 2012 21:04 #1492

  • muench
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Here is a brief statement by Chris Buckley which he made in the closed ecosanres forum and which he has allowed me to copy to here:

++++++++++++++

Greetings all

Staff from the Foundation have attended and contributed to key sanitation conferences / meetings / workshops and have a firm grasp of the challenges in the sector.

Looking at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation web site it will be seen that the foundation understands the Sanitation Value Chain (www.gatesfoundation.org/watersanitationh...trategy-overview.pdf). The approach is reinforced in a recent speech at the World Water Forum 6, Marseille, France (www.gatesfoundation.org/speeches-comment...-rijsberman-wwf.aspx).

Their funding strategy is focused in 3 areas (Sanitation science and technology; Delivery models at scale; and, Policy and advocacy).

Much more information about the grants are given on their web pages.

Chris Buckley
(Recipient of funding for sanitation research from Water Research Commission of South Africa; Borda; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; eThekwini Water and Sanitation; Unilever

Pollution Research Group
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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Re: Reinventing the Toilet Challenge (round 2) - Gates - proposals due 10th May 03 May 2012 21:08 #1499

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Arno Rosemarin's points on the same topic (copied from the ecosanres Yahoo mailing list with his permission):

++++++++++

It takes time for new starters to realize that sanitation is first of all a system. And then it is not just a system of technologies but it involves human beings that behave differently in various parts of the world with varying attitudes. So as you say the toilet is only one component. It is therefore misleading or counter-productive to focus only on “reinventing the toilet”. Yes the toilet is important, no question but it needs to be a tool that allows for sustainable options. The fixation towards toilets alone has led to pit latrines (Hide and Forget) and flush toilets (Flush and Forget) and really no social learning about what the system impacts are, how expensive they are and what the risks are. These questions become crystal clear and tragic in disasters where the WASH system fails, causes widespread disease and mortality especially among small children. We should be thinking in terms of re-evaluating the sanitation system or value chain. It could well be that this is what Gates Foundation had in mind and it will never be to late to expand the horizon.
Best wishes
--Arno Rosemarin/SEI

++++++++++

And there is an interesting "Challenge Paper" by the BMGF which I saw today advertised on Sanitation Updates which sheds further light on their approach to scaling-up sanitation:
sanitationupdates.wordpress.com/2012/05/...ater-and-sanitation/

Well worth a read, I think.
Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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Re: Gates Foundation launches 2nd round of reinvent the toilet challenge 03 May 2012 22:10 #1500

  • jkeichholz
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Thx, Elisabeth!

In the aforementioned paper, it says: "something everyone will want to use and that over time replaces the flush toilet as the new gold standard."
To me, this is the key phrase on Round 2. What I still miss in this (summary of the) "challenge paper" is the willingness to not only have an iPhone-styled (one button, easy to use, etc.) eco flush&forget type for developing countries with their lack of decent sanitation, but also a clear statement that we'll also need this in developed countries. The lack of good public toilets in many developed countries is just evidence of this need. Why should anyone in Africa want to use a toilet system that isn't used in Europe? Who says that the flush&forget approach is so bad?

Of course as watsan people with the background in conventional waste water treatment, we see the system as a whole, like in a way Arno also mentioned it. Also, there's a whole industry behind this (sewage maintenance alone is a huge market in Germany).
Toilets are a system and product that greatly depends on user interaction - especially when it comes to misuse (e.g. someone urinating into the wrong chamber on UDDTs) - and which has the disadvantage of creating hazardous waste.

I am right now in the process of trying to see whether a (cradle 2 cradle) certification could apply to toilets, and if so, in which way. And instead of regarding the existing solutions as "systems", I am focusing on "products" - as in "the toilet as a product" (like a TV or mobile phone). I believe that most consumers just don't care about the treatment options and would just like to use a product that generates waste streams that can be handled safely. So instead of trying to regard this challenge from an engineering perspective (which most of us certainly do), I'd like to focus on the consumer side and start from there. Yes, I am one of those who speak of toilets, even though I know it's also just one (small) part of the equation.

On the other hand, there's got to be a reason why people in Japan invest USD 3,000 on a toilet with music while elsewhere the next available option is used. If this Round2 (and other crazy approaches) help in getting us from end of pipe to closing the loop - well, then I am all for it.

(some will certainly laugh about this iPhone comparison, but similar to the iPhone which wasn't the first smartphone, it was the first everyone wanted to have. You can't state this in a scientific paper, but you can publicly write it on forum like this one and ask for some understanding. Thx!
Juergen Eichholz
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www.saniblog.org
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Gates Foundation takes part in SuSanA session at Africa Water Week 22 May 2012 21:14 #1567

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Dear all,

(This is Part 3 of my feedback from the Africa Water Week and 15th SuSanA meeting in Cairo)

We were fortunate to have Doulaye Koné from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to join us on the panel for Session 8 in the main program (called "Sustainable sanitation and the role of hygiene in the value chain"). I have already spoken about this session in another post (see: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/24-men...12&start=24#1561).

I am attaching below his presentation and a photo of his presentation. (video footage is currently being edited and will be up online on the SuSanA website under "meetings" in about 1-2 weeks from now; please stay tuned)


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Doulaye Koné (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) by Sustainable sanitation, on Flickr

For us in the SuSanA network, it is great to know that we are on the same "wave length" with the Gates Foundation who have become an important player, donor and actor in the field of sanitation within a very short time!

Doulaye´s presentation looks at first sight focussed only on high tech. And in a way it is - high tech, science and innovation. Their point is that they will focus on what they are good at, and not focus on things that other people are already good at doing right now. (having said that, they do financially support various CLTS initiatives; there was also a posting on this here on the forum by Darren Saywell previously: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/5-clts...dels-of-facilitation)

Important elements in their strategy are the sanitation system, the value chain, creating something useful from excreta, reuse options.

Their ultimate goal is:
a toilet which will sell easily on the market, attractive, pleasant to use and cheap to buy. It should not produce any hazard. The reinvented toilet produces clean water, salt or mineral, biochar or electricity to charge your cell phone or light the facility etc. Thermodynamic calculation shows that excreta contains enough embodied energy to sustain a chemical process (drying, combustion, heating, filtration, evaporation etc).


My personal view: This goal will be next to impossible to achieve (I would love to be proven wrong in years to come) but we need to have a vision and I simply love the way the engagement of the BMGF in sanitation with the methods they have chosen ("Reinvent the toilet challenge" etc.), has attracted so much media attention and continues to get journalists, as well as university professors, inventors, engineers, business people, investors interested in a topic that was formerly only taken up by NGOs or development workers (e.g. serving the urban poor with sanitation).

So the Africa Water Week was good for SuSanA and the Foundation to show to those who are not so much into sanitation yet, a glimpse about the potential (in terms of value creation) which innovative sanitation has to offer.

Regards,
Elisabeth

P.S. I can't resist inserting another photo from the same event here, because it is so nice how photos which are in our flickr collection can be embedded here by using the BBC code:

Elisabeth von Muench with all the 5 presenters by Sustainable sanitation, on Flickr
Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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Re: Gates Foundation takes part in SuSanA session at Africa Water Week 22 May 2012 23:53 #1568

  • Marijn Zandee
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Dear all,

I have started to write a reply to this topic a number of times now, but somehow never found the right tone (and am not sure I have this time).
In a way I feel quite inclined to go along with the reasoning of for instance Elizabeth, that the BMGF have some really neat ideas and that they are great at creating public interest in sanitation. Even that their way of asking for what seems to most of us the impossible is a great way to generate interest and maybe some off the wall “miracle”solution will appear.

However I am also left with an uncomfortable feeling, a lot of what I see about their challenges goes against my experiences (admittedly quite limited) working in the developing world, specifically Nepal. In the rest of this post, I will voice some of these doubts, in the hope that other people will join the conversation, because I do feel that there is a worthwhile discussion to be had over the re-invent the toilet challenge and about the focus on high-tech solutions.

Both in this challenge as in some of the recent agriculture round robins, the focus is very much on high-tech solutions. It does amaze me that on a forum like this, where so many people would probably agree instantly if I would write that for sanitation no magic bullet exists, everyone seems to be willing to go along with the BMGF in trying to make that silver bullet. For example, if the government of Kenya would reserve 100 million dollar and set this challenge, how many people would take it seriously?

I do see the attraction of a high-tech solution, especially as a selling point. However I do not see how even the most fancy toilet could compete with a TV playing Shahrukh Khan movies for more than a day. It does make me wonder, what happened to the whole concept of intermediate technologies? Even if one of these toilets could be build for the very limited budget that the BMGF proposes (by the way, how do you define 0.05 cents per user per day?, how long do you expect people to save or pay of a loan?) what will happen to M&E, if a 25 dollar piece of the toilet fails, how are people going to fix it?

There are other questions about the appropriateness of high-tech; where will these toilets be built? It can not be done in Nepal, so how should a very poor country find the money to buy the high-tech toilets in India or China? Having a high-tech pre-made unit also completely takes away the possibility for people to contribute (other then paying for it) to their toilet solution. What does that do to ownership and the sense that people can change their own lives?

I can probably go on coming up with doubts and problems, but I think everyone can see where I am headed with this. My feeling is that what this challenges is trying to do is to design a new (and definitely better) toilet solution for high and middle income countries. But why can they not simply put it that way? Why is it impossible to say, we in America, Europe, etc. are the problem, we need different toilets! Now I am left with the feeling that the developing world is used as a marketing tool to generate interest in a toilet solution, that ultimately they will not be able to afford .

In the hope that this will direct the discussion somewhat:

How do we on this forum see the interaction between high-tech and sustainability. In terms of M&O, ownership of pre-fabricated toilets, etc?

Kind regards

Marijn
Marijn Zandee
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Deutsche Gesellschaft für
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Re: Gates Foundation takes part in SuSanA session at Africa Water Week 23 May 2012 00:34 #1569

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Thx, Marijn & Elisabeth!

Just as a quick reply to the high-tech factor: afaik, Nepal also doesn't produce iPhones or even simple Nokia or Huawei feature phones. And yet almost everyone has one. How do they repair the multi-layered pcbs with their tiny surface mounted bga chips? Someone just does it.

A toilet of course isn't a telephone, yet they mentioned the success of the telecom sector as an orientation for wash activities.

I also understand the Reinvent the toilet challenge to be an international thing which is not only meant for developing countries.
Juergen Eichholz
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Re: Gates Foundation takes part in SuSanA session at Africa Water Week 23 May 2012 08:23 #1570

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@Marijn
While I agree with your general concern, I would say "high-tech" does not necessarily mean in this case also "can only be build in a chip factory".

If someone would come up with a clever way to chemically dry feces for example, using substances that do not produce a huge environmental pollution while also being available relatively cheaply, I am quite sure such a system could also be build (and sold) in Nepal.
Krischan Makowka
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Last Edit: 23 May 2012 08:24 by JKMakowka.
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some thoughts about approaches to find solutions for the sanitation challenge 23 May 2012 11:00 #1574

  • christoph
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Dear Marijn and others,
I think the gates foundation is in its right to perceive a way THEY think is the best. I really do not understand why they are criticized for that (in sanitation). If they were operating on money from governments…yes than we might have to discuss if the way is the most effective way and probably they would not have the room to go other ways. I think we all do agree, until now there is no magic way and almost EVERYTHING has failed in certain situations. There is no proven solution to achieve sanitation coverage in unstructured, densely populated areas. So isn´t it time to come up with something new? If they come up with a new toilet (I as well doubt the possibility to find something) why does it have to be expensive? and if it is expensive….is ist not possible that
a) scale will bring down costs
b) there might be possibilities for cheaper versions?
So why do we criticize a new approach to find a solution? Many of us have ideas how it could be done, how it could be tested and I know that we differ a lot about THE SOLUTION. I think we should discuss solutions and not be to negative sided for new approaches because we were not able to find a way until now. Yes, I am disappointed that the Gates foundation did not share my view on how to tackle the problem (in the first round) … that´s life.
I personally would go another way than they go because I think there are ways which just need to be done as an example in scale, so I would tackle the problem from a different angle. I would do a call for the cities and water authorities... who give me the best institutional conditions to implant a non sewer based system based on a sanitation tariff, gets a funding. I think the institutional setting is one of if not THE most important aspect for a large scale project. Then I would put together a group who defines for that city a strategy and would do a bidding for the execution of the project (or I would call for ideas (2-3 groups making (paid) proposals). I would have a committee with the city and the sanitation provider to choose the most promising solution. Then I would go for implementation. It is a 3 year time frame for significant results when we shortcut by this the institutional problems which mostly undermine projects and are very time consuming. The Gates foundation has that ability. Government organizations may not, because their activities are bound to bi lateral agreements, they cannot work when the institutional does not allow work anymore.
I really appreciate the serious trying to find new approaches of anyone and any organization, we should challenge the ideas, but not negatively (it is easier to bring down a new idea than having an own idea).
I can remember five years ago the involvement of the Gates foundation in sanitation was very, very timid, today it is an important issue, so there are large changes and they seem to be a learning organization which is remarkable in large organizations. I am positive about the development.
Let’s try to give ideas and I´m sure somebody will have the task to collect ideas ….and one day …maybe there is room for these ideas.
Yours
Christoph
Last Edit: 25 May 2012 19:39 by muench.
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