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AKVO in Ethiopia

Published on: 02/05/2013

Akvo means water in Esperanto. Akvo's tools are open source and used by over 1,800 organisations throughout the world in areas such as water, sanitation, health, education, food security and economic development. We spoke to Jeroen van der Sommen to find out how Akvo are supporting the monitoring of water supplies in Ethiopia.

Akvo at a glance

Akvo is a non-profit foundation that builds open source internet and mobile software that is aimed at making international development cooperation and aid activity more effective and transparent. Akvo provide software as a service, backing up the products through a partner-support and training team.

Key activities: Akvo has four products: 1) Akvo RSR stands for Really Simple Reporting. This is a web- and Android-based system that aims to make it easy for development aid teams to bring complex networks of projects online and share progress with everyone involved and interested; 2) Akvo FLOW is a mobile phone and online service that looks to transform field monitoring using Android smartphones; 3) Akvo Openaid is for government and big international organisations to present their aid-spend data online in easy to navigate ways that meet transparency obligations; 4) Akvopedia is a portal for online knowledge about smart, low-cost, sustainable water and sanitation technology and approaches.

Where Akvo work:  Akvo tools are used all over the world in 93 countries and over 1600 organisations. Akvo is headquartered in the Netherlands with staff in Sweden, Finland, Kenya, Burkina Faso, the UK, Germany, Spain, India, Indonesia, Singapore and the United States. Recently, Akvo have been supporting the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy and UNICEF to complete the National WASH Inventory in Somali region of Ethiopia, using new data collection technologies.

Find out more: Some useful links are the Akvo website at http://akvo.org/ for all RSR projects in Ethiopia see http://rsr.akvo.org/projects/all/?locations__country=12&continent=af and see http://mwa.akvoflow.org/ for a map showing data points generated by Akvo FLOW in Ethiopia by ICCO, MWA, SNV, the Dutch WASH Alliance, Connect4Change and the Government of Ethiopia in cooperation with UNICEF Ethiopia. 

Contact Akvo: Luuk Diphoorn is based in Nairobi luuk@akvo.org and Jeroen van der Sommen in Amsterdam jeroen@akvo.org 

Interview with Jeroen van der Sommen

One of the problems encountered in many countries is that data is poorly accessible and thus not fully used, says Jeroen. Existing databases are often hard to update and the quality is often poor. Many countries have more than one WASH database. Akvo tries to solve these problems by using mobile phones for data collection and feeding data into the existing databass. Existing datasets can also be verified and updated using new point updating modules. The ability to see how data changes over time is a critical part of monitoring. Using the Akvo FLOW monitoring feature, teams can return to a previous mapped point at a later date and update or add to the existing information. Jeroen believes that these features are widely needed and will drastically improve the functionality of WASH systems.

Last year, Akvo started working with the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, with funding from UNICEF, to undertake the National WASH Inventory in Somali region. This region had not been included in the earlier 2010/11 national data collection. The intention was to use mobile phones to improve and speed up data collection and entry. Previously, data collection had been taking several months in some regions. This has gone well and in May the draft results from mapping all water systems in one of Ethiopia's most remote and challenging regions were presented, and lessons from the exercise discussed and shared. The intention now is that mobile data collection and related tools will be used to make nationwide updating of the National WASH Inventory much easier.

Akvo are supporting other countries to make similar steps. In Ghana Akvo are introducing a national monitoring system for the government in the Smarter WASH program together with IRC. This is a blue print for national monitoring systems elsewhere. All software developed in one program is freely shared with all FLOW users in other countries so the systems improves over time. Jeroen believes the open source approach will benefit the WASH sector as knowledge and experience is accumulated and shared. And this is only the start, says Jeroen, as very promising innovations like mobile phone water quality testing and simple to operate dashboards together with apps for IATI compliant reporting systems from the field will be introduced soon.