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In a bid to enhance monitoring of rural water service delivery in Uganda, IRC/Triple-S Initiative in conjunction with the Ministry of Water and Environment undertook to develop a set of Service Delivery Indicators (SDIs).

The process that started in 2013 has also resulted into the establishment of an online digital system where data collected on SDIs is stored, analysed and made accessible to those interested in following trends in rural water service delivery.

Measuring the performance of the Uganda Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector started in 2003 with the definition and regular review of a set of 11 Golden Indicators .  However, it was observed that while the golden indicators provide information on broader sector performance, they  do not provide in-depth insight into the whole range of factors that work together to ensure that people in the rural areas enjoy good quality uninterrupted water services.

The SDIs specifically provide deeper insight into the factors at four levels including:

  • The service delivered:  What kind of service does the water user get? Is it of adequate quantity; Is it of acceptable quality? Is it a reliable service? 
  • Users’ level: Are the water users satisfied with the service they get? Do users actively participate in the management of the water sources?
  • Service provider level: Who is working to ensure that users get the service they expect? Is it the water user committee? Is it the source caretaker? Is the WUC fully constituted? Does the committee perform its expected roles? Does the committee collect user fees; keep financial records; organise meetings with users? Are there sound internal governance structures? Is there accountability for O&M funds?
  • Service authority level: Which authorities are involved in ensuring that users get the service that water is? How do these authorities support the processes concerning the delivery of water services? These authorities are mainly at district and sub-county level.

The SDIs are in sync with the golden indicators and also build on the existing policies.  So far, the SDIs have been tested and used in a study to assess the service delivery model for point water sources in Uganda.

Triple-S Programme Officer Valerie Bey and Research Officer Joseph Abisa explain apart from providing more detail especially about the user satisfaction, the SDIs answer the question of why water users get the service they get. Using the SDIs also saves some resources because mobile phones are used to collect the data.  The SDIs also reduce the time between data collection and action, moreover with the new digital system, data is accessible online. This means that actors can easily access the latest information about water services, which in turn could inform and speed up decisions about the appropriate action to be taken.

How the SDIs digital system works

The system collects data on the performance of rural water service delivery based on the SDIs. Questionnaires are designed and installed on the Hand Pump Mechanics’ mobile phones. The mechanics go to the sampled water sources and observe the water sources as well as hold interviews with the users who come to fetch water. The completed questionnaires are uploaded  into the SDIs online data base  via mobile phones. As much as possible the questions are simplified so that target respondents can answer easily.

The system was trialed in December 2013, with the first full round of data collection conducted from all rural sub counties in Lira and Kabarole Districts. Eleven sources were selected in each sub-county. In Lira district, only point water sources were surveyed since there are no tap schemes in the district. However in Kabarole, both point sources and taps were surveyed. Data cleaning and analysis is underway and the online digital system is automatically generating reports.

Observations from the first full round of data collection

  1. In some areas the researchers took a long time finding functional taps to include in the sample size.  This was because some selected taps were not functioning so no data could be collected from them as there were no users. But for purposes of recording the functionality figures in each sub county, the non-functional sources were also captured in the data.
  2. Data gathering all depends on the rhythm of the community. The Hand Pump Mechanic has to know the time of the day when people are more likely to be fetching water. Is it school holiday time? Is it rainy season or not? Otherwise they may sit at the water point all day waiting for someone to interview.
  3. The other challenge is that it is mainly children who fetch water yet the questions are designed for knowledgeable water users. This was partly resolved by interviewing only adults, but if a child of 15 turned up at the water source and is knowledgeable enough, that child could be interviewed.  

 Although the system is still being developed, it presents good prospects for monitoring of service delivery. In its current state, the system can be used at district and national level. The system also involves all key stakeholders at different levels – District Water Officers (DWOs), Hand Pump Mechanics (HPMs). The choice of working with HPMs to collect the data was based on the fact that they were already well acquainted with using mobile phones to collect and post data about water sources, having been involved in the M4W initiative since 2011.

The SDIs data collected is supposed to trigger action. When interested actors access the data and make specific observations, they can base on that to seek even deeper information. The Ministry of Water and Environment could use the data for many purposes like planning, reporting, resource allocation and other interventions.

Valerie Bey and Joseph Abisa explain: “our main interest currently is to build capacity so that the Ministry and others are able to use the system. The Ministry will  scale it up the system to other districts.”

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