Kenya becomes first Dutch embassy to show all development work online

by Luuk Diphoorn

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Photo: Dutch development investment in Kenya is extremely diverse, including fields such as social change through cultural arts. (Centre) Jane Mbugua and Rahim Otieno of Sarakasi Trust; Shitemi Khamadi, PAWA254; Lynnet Ngigi, Kuona Trust accompanied by the Sarakasi dancers and acrobats. Photo credit: Mwarv Kirubi, 4 July 2014.

Today we are at the Netherlands Embassy in Nairobi to attend its NGO Day. Akvo gets big billing as it will be explained that the full portfolio of €100 million of Dutch development cooperation projects in Kenya is now online through Akvo RSR, with a move towards full compliance with IATI soon. Here’s the announcement for the local press.



Netherlands Embassy in Kenya is first to publish full development portfolio online, towards IATI standard
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When God left the City of Temples

by Jigmy Lama

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Saturday, 25 April 2015 marked a black day in Nepali history as Kathmandu and 38 other districts experienced a 7.6 Richter scale earthquake at 11:56 am. In the four days that followed, more than 700 shocks were recorded, 600 of them above 4 on the Richter scale.

Eight million lives have been affected with severe loss of life and property across 11 districts. As I write, the data shows 5,489 deaths and 10,965 injuries, and these numbers are expected to double by the time the search and rescue is completed (Source: National Emergency Operation Centre, Ministry of Home Affairs and UN Data, 30 April 2015). Numerous major heritage sites, temples and shrines have been damaged or destroyed completely. For example, Kasthmandap, a temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square that was built from a single tree during the early sixteenth century, is now completely destroyed. The Darahara or Bhimsen Tower, rebuilt in 1934 following its destruction in a mega earthquake that devastated Kathmandu Valley, is only debris now. Durbar Squares in all three cities, Kathmandu, Bhakatapur and Lalitpur, and the Durbar High School, Nepal’s first school, also could not survive this quake and all sustained severe damage.

News of the quake flooded regional and international media and soon the world came to know that the land of the Himalayas was engulfed by nature’s ruthless act. Expressions of grief and sympathy along with support from the international community started to flood in. However, all this has been overshadowed by the tremendous shock that people in Nepal still feel, while coping with countless tremors, to realise that the long-expected threat has turned into a reality. It’s really hard to take it all in. Read More »

Stefan van Heukelum: The finance view

by Stefan van Heukelum

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This is part of a series of posts by Akvo staff members called “Reflections and perspectives”, timed to coincide with the publishing of the Akvo 2014 Annual Report.

During 2014 there were three main events that created some challenges for the Akvo finance team. 

First of all, by the end of 2013 we decided that it was appropriate for us to become VAT-registered, due to changes in our business model and our sector. To make sure we did everything properly, at the beginning of 2014 we underwent an extensive audit by our accountant at Lentink en de Jonge. This showed that we made the right choices and we’re heading in the right directions. Like true accountants, they also provided us with some suggestions for improvements in our administrative and financial processes.

Secondly, we continued growing. We realised more income than the year before and the number of staff also increased.

And thirdly, related to this, we expanded more into different regions by decentralising part of our work from Amsterdam. This resulted in setting up new several Akvo entities in different places and transferring some of our staff into these new entities. For the Amsterdam finance and operational admin team, this meant that sometimes we had to look at the finances for all the separate entities and sometimes we had to look at the bigger picture of all the administrations combined. The challenges also varied a little bit in the perspective that we were using. Read More »

Jo Pratt: Navigating the land of no maps

by Jo Pratt

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This is part of a series of posts by Akvo staff members called “Reflections and perspectives”, timed to coincide with the publishing of the Akvo 2014 Annual Report.

When I look around me at the context in which we work, one thing I notice is that there’s a tension at play between two significant observable trends pushing in opposite directions. On the one hand, I see a positive, expanding momentum to strive for aid transparency and #Opendata for development and all the benefits that brings, and on the other, a complex raft of issues surrounding personal privacy and consent online.

I was intrigued to read this blog by my new colleague Annabelle Poelert (who I’ve yet to meet) about a conference she recently attended called Responsible Data for Humanitarian Response. She remarked that, “Most of the professional data scientists seemed to be quite dismissive about the dangers of ploughing ahead with new types of data analysis without fully understanding the consequences. Their biggest concerns weren’t necessarily ethical in nature. They seemed more afraid of failing to explore data analysis to its full potential and losing momentum. But what mistakes can be considered acceptable if the data affects people’s lives?”

Aid transparency is very far from a new concept these days, and the benefits and scope of the phenomenon are far more widely understood and accepted than they were when Akvo came into being in 2007 with a mission to provide a platform to help open up the water and sanitation sector. Movements such as the International Aid Transparency Initiative are rapidly normalising openness and accountability.

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Henry Jewell: Making the case for open

by Henry Jewell

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This is part of a series of posts by Akvo staff members called “Reflections and perspectives”, timed to coincide with the publishing of the Akvo 2014 Annual Report.
‘The days are long and the years are short’, is a phrase I have heard a lot of as a new parent – spare time very quickly obtains a high premium and before you know it months and even years have passed. This phrase takes on even more significance when at the same time you are trying to figure out parenthood, you are setting up a non-profit.  Akvo Foundation USA is a little over 18 months old and whilst it has been a whirlwind of activities, it is important to take stock to understand what we have achieved, where we are now and what our goals moving forward are, before the next 18 months has passed by in a flash.

So far our attention and energy has been focused on:
  • Obtaining funds for the core development of Akvo tools – nearly $1.5 Million raised from US partners to date
  • Introducing Akvo’s tools to new partners – through training, demonstrations and presentations
  • Working to promote the value of common standards, innovative ICT interventions, open data and how to use this data effectively
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Supporting Vanuatu’s disaster response: our experience so far

by Stefan Kraus

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Tropical Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu on March 13, 2015. Cutting a line of destruction across the eastern side of Vanuatu’s archipelago of islands, it was one of the worst natural disasters in Vanuatu’s history and the third most intense storm ever to occur in the southern hemisphere.

Since 2014, Akvo has been working with the government of Vanuatu and UNICEF Pacific to map all the Water points in Vanuatu. Vanuatu’s Department of Geology, Mines and Water Resources (DGMWR) and UNICEF have been closely involved in the response effort to Cyclone Pam. From the very early stages of this natural disaster, Akvo staff have been actively supporting our partners in Vanuatu with the recovery efforts, on the ground and from afar.

Directly supporting a disaster response has been a new and enlightening experience for the Akvo team. We learned a lot while working with our partners in Vanuatu over the last month and would like to share some of our observations from this process. Here’s a timeline of events and activities from our perspective.

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World Water Forum 7, Korea – the debrief

by Frodo van Oostveen

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I believe building partnerships is all about human connections, shared values, quality-time and mutual interests. The people we met at the 7th World Water Forum in Korea between 12th and 16th April 2015 were definitely water-professionals, curious about technology and eager to learn and share their stories.

People understand and appreciate our combination of solid scalable tools, that have a human touch, and how they unleash the potential of personal connectivity. They are convinced that training and support is needed to gather proper credible data, and for the embedding of tools into organisations, including governance structures.

Photo: The Akvo stand featured our “hero shoot” backdrop. It was popular throughout the week, as people posed for photographs. Here, two visitors said a brief hello. Photo: Frodo van Oostveen.

For Akvo the forum was the perfect opportunity to meet partners in new sectors we’ve now entered, such as conservation, and to update partners we met during last World Water Forum in Marseille in 2012. As my colleague Amitangshu Acharya highlighted during his presentation about “Producing water quality data digitally: next evolution in data revolution”, a lot has happened since then – our partners have collected more than one million surveys with Akvo FLOW and we are in the development process of Akvo Caddisfly, which we demonstrated to people all week.

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Akvo expands to Bamako, Mali

by Dagmar Verbeek

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Above: Fisherman in the Niger river near Bamako. Photo credit: Lars Heemskerk.
When sharing with people that I will shortly be moving to Mali, a very common reaction is: ‘…ahh Bali’. Well, no… this move is not a reinforcement of our hub in Indonesia. We are at the point of opening another spot in West Africa that will function as part of our existing hub in Burkina Faso. In the past two years of expanding our work in the West African region, we really got into a flow.

When I joined the West African team of Jeroen and Emeline, Akvo was active in Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana through our participation in two Dutch consortia (Connect4Change and Dutch WASH Alliance) and a new contract had just been signed with the Ministry of Water in Benin to start a pilot to collect data with Akvo FLOW.

Today our team is active in about ten countries and we are very happy to have doubled in size recently; Giel joined us a year ago, and Abdoulaye, Frédéric and Lars now strengthen our team and bring in different capabilities. Although it would have been very nice to join our colleagues in Ouagadougou, as a team we decided to explore ‘new’, and already known grounds in Bamako. New because Akvo has no office yet there, and there are many opportunities to explore. Known, because we’ve already undertaken several activities in Bamako and recorded some nice results. And also personally known to me as I spent six months in Bamako in 2007. Read More »

Over one million surveys, collected with Akvo FLOW

by Peter van der Linde

Over the last years, Akvo has worked with governments and many partners across the globe to introduce and support the introduction of mobile phone based monitoring. As of today Akvo FLOW is used in 37 countries, and our partners have conducted over 1,150,000 surveys to improve decision-making in the fields of water and sanitation, food and agriculture, energy, health, education, forestry, fishery and conservation.

Worldwide usage and spread of 1,150,000 surveys that used Akvo FLOW.

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From all surveys, around 60% relate to the water sector. Many of the partners that use our tools are willing to share data that is not private or sensitive, so it can support the common good. This has enabled us to develop the map below that shows key water functionality data for 126,251 water points that are being monitored with our tools. We sincerely thank all partners and governments for willing to share this key data publicly.

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Introducing Akvo Caddisfly, the water quality testing kit

by Mark Charmer

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We’ve been asking ourselves a number of questions about our future product mix. One is how do we expand our research and development capabilities on the ground, in the countries where our tools are used? A second is whether Akvo should expand into hardware (physical products), as opposed to being purely about software. A third is which kind of products can build on our existing strengths, our market presence and capabilities. This includes having a sharp eye on what kind of product concepts could be financed and developed with the backing of our existing investors and partners.

A key area we have identified is water testing, at the local field level. Globally, 780 million+ people still don’t have access to clean water. For example, in India (and elsewhere) fluorosis is a serious health issue and more than 100 million Indians are at risk because they drink water containing fluoride or other contaminants such as arsenic or coliform bacteria. Existing water quality-testing procedures fall short in a number of ways. Field-test equipment is often hard to use and unreliable and lab tests are costly and slow. Resulting data is generally stored locally and not shared effectively. This makes it hard to quickly collect, analyse, present and efficiently use data to resolve drinking water issues.

We think we’ve got a promising new product, that really takes things forward. And this week we started demonstrating it to anyone who wants to see it, at the 7th World Water Forum, in Korea.

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