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Behind all water, sanitation and hygiene data is a story. Very, often these stories are hidden behind cold statistics that enable us to count and tick boxes.

These statistics are about people and their quality of life whose dilemma is reduced to aesthetic illustrations that drive the conversations of professionals.

WASH stakeholders in Uganda acknowledge that, action comes from telling the real stories, facilitating stakeholders to collectively make meaning from them and take action.  

Uganda as a good example in sharing and using water point data

The Ugandan Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector is quite advanced in terms of sharing and using water point data to provide indicators for water and development - as illustrated with the Ugandan Water Supply Atlas. The government and NGOs in Uganda have published data for over 110,000 water points on the Water Point Data Exchange platform. The web-based platform was established for sharing and harmonising water point data collected by different actors to make the data more accessible and easy to use.

Uganda provides a strong example from sub-Saharan Africa of sharing and using water point data, actively reviewing, evaluating progress and learning from the data. The Ministry of Water and Environment maintains a strong national monitoring and evaluation framework with 70 Golden Indicators that have been recently updated to incorporate the SDGs.

Water point data are a set of records which uniquely identify water points and provide additional attributes such as the type and condition of the infrastructure, functionality, service levels and sustainability of the water service from that water point. Water point data will typically also include information on when the data was collected and by whom. A water point is a point source from which water is abstracted, such as a borehole, well or spring, and water supply/distribution points, such as a hand pump installed on a borehole or a standpipe in a small piped network.

This case study shows how NGOs and the Government of Uganda are using water point data at local and national levels for the decision-making processes of the delivery and management of water supply. It also provides insights on future trends in water point monitoring, which can be used to accelerate progress towards sustainable services. The case study is based on interviews with representatives from three District Local Governments and the Ministry of Water and Environment, the analysis of 13 documented cases, and the reflections of a national stakeholders' event with over 20 leaders in water point mapping.

Water point data collection

Water point data is currently being collected using a mix of tools, methods, approaches, and processes. It is worth noting that district water officers use different paper forms for local and national governments. The data is collected from a sample of water points on a quarterly basis and is submitted to Ministry of Water and Environment [MWE] to update the Water Supply Database. At the national level, MWE conducts a census of water points every five years.

The NGOs interviewed mainly used digital-based systems and mobile phones linked to web-based systems to collect data. Different systems were used depending on NGO priorities. The systems include; Horizon, Akvo FLOW, mWater, ODK, Progmis and eFtracker; however, the majority of NGOs interviewed still use paper-based forms. Water point data is largely collected on a quarterly basis, annually and in some occasions on a one-off basis or whenever there is need for example; water point satisfaction data, water point drilling data and water point asset mapping. NGOs mainly use a sample while collecting water point data, which is rolled out to ensure completeness at the end of the year. Very few NGOs collect water point data as a post-implementation procedure.

The findings presented in the Case study are part of a Research on Use of Water Point data conducted by WASH Note in partnership with IRC with funding from Water and Development Alliance, a partnership between Coca-Cola and USAID.

Requirements for water point data collection, processing and use

Government and NGOs have different needs regarding water point data collection, processing, and use. At the local government level, they need system(s) that can enable real-time water point data collection. This enables concerned persons to respond immediately and localise formats for data collection.  At the national level, there are needs to ensure data quality.

NGOs’ needs relating to water point data collection, processing, and use include; finances, technical assistance and personnel dedicated to water point data management, locally designed systems equivalent to the national system, better tools, and universality at the district level and on how data is processed, used and shared. Other needs expressed were cost-efficient technology/devices and capacity building to increase the technical aptitude of operators/personnel.

Type of data collected

  • Functionality
  • Reliability
  • Water quality
  • Service level
  • User satisfaction
  • Physical state of assets
  • Water point drilling

How district local governments and NGOs are using water point data

District local governments have used water point data in planning and coordinating meetings at district levels so as to inform decisions on the equitable allocation of new water points. Unserved villages in different districts have been mapped and the information collected is being used to negotiate increased budget allocations for water supply.

The Hand Pump Mechanic associations in Lira and Kamwenge districts have used the data from technical assessments of broken facilities to derive costs and a budget for rehabilitation.

Water for People in Kamwenge district have pioneered the development of District WASH Investment Plans for projecting the costs for universal access to WASH services These Plans have been created for at least 40 of the 125 districts in Uganda. Investment Plans have inspired political leaders to get involved at district level to mobilise resources to support the implementation of the plans.

Water Trust has conducted a risk analysis of water points using water quality data and supports in the development of mitigation plans.

Water for People and the Kamwenge district local government have been able to update the asset registry at district level, analyse the needs for repairs/replacement, and develop Asset Management Plans.

Evidence action has supported community circuit riders to monitor the functionality of water points and ensure continuous supply of chlorine for disinfection so that users consume safe water. The data is also being used to understand best practices and to track impact.

Whave organisation has developed a results-based payment model for hand pump mechanics which uses data on water point reliability.

The Ministry of Water and Environment annually convenes multilateral partners, civil society organisations and the private sector for a joint sector review. They use water point data to assess national performance, identify funding gaps and coverage levels, understand the state of the infrastructure and services, and get to know investment needs.


 

Barriers affecting water point data use

  • Lack of capacity at local government level to manage, analyse and interpret data. As a result, the data collected is often incomplete, ‘cold’ and does not properly reflect the real dilemma faced by the population
  • There is also no systematic process of archiving data. This makes it difficult to find meaning in  data and to track unfolding  overtime
  • Limited opportunities for sharing data at local government level
  • Political influence at local government levels hinder the use of data to aid in  resource allocation
  • Limited internet connectivity makes it difficult to access online data sets
  • Inconsistency in datasets available at district and national levels and NGOs have different scoring methods

Actions for local governments

  • There is a need for technical staff in the District Water Office to work with partners (either NGOs or Technical Support Units) to define and reach a consensus on common and consistent messages based on the data over a given period. This will be used to reach out to political leadership, planners and other relevant stakeholders.
  • There is need to break down the data and simplify it as much as possible. This enables different stakeholders to understand it and to know the role they can have in both the data use and the key messages. For example, disseminating data to sub-county water boards and enabling them to understand how they can use it to perform their roles.
  • Require NGOs and the private sector to collect water point data that meets national standards, to monitor results, and to share their data with the district and other stakeholders. They should explain the results of their water point monitoring during coordination meetings. Provide feedback to the national government when there incur challenges in using data.
  • Use water point data to plan corrective actions and design programs with partners. For this to work efficiently, NGOs and government must work with the same standards and indicators and ensure local voices are included in the choice of data to collect.

A vision for the future of water point data use

  • A sector that monitors in real-time, invites conversations and enables different stakeholders to contribute and act based on evidenced.
  • A sector that shares data so that stakeholders are aware of the quality of services delivered.
  • A sector where complete data is captured and shared to impact services delivery, harmonising, and creating stronger linkages with many potential sources of water point data.
  • A transparent sector with partners that respond appropriately (clear roles and responsibilities) and ensured capacity to do the roles.
  • A sector that monitors in real time, invites conversations, and enables different stakeholders to contribute and act based on evidenced data.
  • A sector where water point data is used to ensure effective and efficient systems that work to improve water services, decisions and plans made based on water point data and to manage both human and physical resources and as well as to change behaviour of users to ensure services last longer.  
  • A sector that empowers and supports government relevant government structures and personnel to collect water point data and use it to deliver water services.

Conclusion

There is a story behind water point data that speaks about the dilemma real people face every day. The cold statistics that continue to dominate sector conversations and reports have not been appealing enough to trigger action and drive change. There is need for monitoring champions at district and national level to get better at telling the stories behind the data. They should use these stories to facilitate conversations to reach consensus on common and consistent messages for engaging the political leadership at national and district level.

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