When in doubt, zoom out

by Alvaro de Salvo

Above: The first draft of Akvo’s Theory of Change. Akvo Amsterdam office. 21 February 2017. Photo by Alvaro de Salvo.
What’s Akvo’s impact in the world? How can we better support our partners in achieving their missions? Will our strategies contribute to the change we want to create?

During the end of January and beginning of February, my colleagues Abdoulaye, Annabelle, Anita, Ethel and Henry held a Planning Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (PMEL) week in our Amsterdam office. Their objective was to engage in a process that would help us find better answers to the questions above. For five full days, they connected with multiple people across the organisation in order to:
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Opening Sierra Leone’s WASH data portal

by Lars Heemskerk

On the heels of being named one of the first “open governments” in West Africa by the Open Government Partnership, this week Sierra Leone has launched an interactive Water and Sanitation (WASH) data portal. This portal is a joint initiative led by the Ministry of Water Resources and has been set up using Akvo Sites. It displays data analysis features, interactive data tables, maps and raw data from the 28,000 water points mapped in 2016. Read More »

Growing spaces for Pacific disaster management: mobile and smartphone based responses

by Jo Pratt

Blog by Mitiana Arbon.

Spread across a third of the world’s surface, many Pacific island countries (PICs) and their remote and isolated populations face acute development challenges and coordination issues. Mobile phones have helped to ease the challenges of some nations that sprawl across many island groups and connect communities in the face of extreme geographies.

While PICs face projected increases in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, governments and NGOs have only recently begun to incorporate mobile phones into disaster management plans. However, the rise of more sophisticated smartphone-based technology has opened up encouraging new avenues for policymakers working on disaster management.

Basic mobile-based responses

Across the Pacific, existing mobile-enabled responses to natural disasters focus on community preparedness and information dissemination. Through bulk-SMS message updates, network providers and national disaster coordinators provide users with critical information before, during, and after such events. Ranging from emergency tsunami warnings to condensed weather forecast updates, before and even during cyclones, these services are pre-arranged by agreements between network providers and local governments.

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A view of Kenya’s water sector, from Kenya Water Week

by Tabitha Gerrets


From aid to trade
was the title of the first ever Kenya Water Week, held in Nairobi from 21-25 November. Those familiar with Dutch development policy will not be surprised that there was a considerable Dutch delegation, as the slogan is embraced by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Panellists and presenters included members of, amongst others, the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), Vitens Evides International (VEI), Aqua for All and Akvo. The big (orange) Netherlands Pavillion was shared with other Dutch players such as SNV, Simavi, Wetlands International, Future Pump and Upande. For a little while, it felt like being in the Netherlands again.

Liliane Ploumen has been advocating for the move from aid to trade since she became the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation in 2012. Kenya fits within that policy shift, at least on paper. In 2015 it acquired the status of lower middle-income county, with an annual income per capita of $1,046 to $4,125. The Dutch government responded by declaring it will phase out development cooperation and move towards more economically driven collaboration. During Water Week, visitors got a glimpse of what that could look like. Read More »

Ten misconceptions about mobile data collection

by Lars Heemskerk


Above: This is not a pipe. The difference between reality and conception is sometimes hard to tell. Painting above: The Treachery of Images by René Magritte (Belgium, 1898-1967)

The number of smartphone users worldwide surpassed 2 billion this year. This rapid growth has given endless opportunities in the development of smartphone applications. It also brings many new possibilities to the field of data collection. Although mobile data collection is increasingly being used, I’ve noticed that some people still feel skeptical about it. Whether it has to do with the confidence that people have in the old means of collecting data (pen and paper) or the unfamiliarity of new techniques, most of the judgements I hear around me are based on false assumptions. In this blog I will refute the ten most commonly heard misconceptions about mobile data collection. Read More »

Dix préjugés sur la collecte de données par Smartphone

by Lars Heemskerk


Ceci n’est pas une pipe. La différence entre la réalité et la conception est parfois difficile à dire. Tableau ci-dessus: La trahison des images de René Magritte (Belgique, 1898-1967).

Le nombre d’utilisateurs de Smartphones dans le monde a dépassé 2 milliards cette année. Cette croissance rapide a donné des possibilités infinies en ce qui concerne la conception des applications pour Smartphones. Cette croissance apporte également de nombreuses opportunités dans le domaine de la collecte des données. Bien que la collecte des données par Smartphone soit de plus en plus pratiquée, j’ai remarqué que certaines personnes sont encore sceptiques vis à vis de cette nouvelle façon de collecter les données. Qu’il s’agisse de la confiance que les gens ont en l’ancienne méthode de collecte de données (stylo et papier) ou de la méconnaissance des nouvelles techniques, la plupart des jugements que j’entends autour de moi sont basés sur de fausses hypothèses. Dans ce blog, je vais réfuter dix préjugés sur la collecte de données via le Smartphone.
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Entretien avec l’ambassadrice de Akvo au Mali

by Wendemi Ilboudo

A l’ouverture du Hub du Mali en avril 2015, Akvo a jugé nécessaire d’avoir l’appui d’une personne chevronnée qui connaît bien le pays ainsi que les organisations afin d’aider la nouvelle équipe à se frayer un chemin. C’est dans cette perspective que Akvo a commencé une collaboration avec Mme Nana Dante Thiero. Nous l’appelons chaleureusement « notre ambassadrice » et nous sommes heureux de vous présenter celle qui aide à ouvrir les portes pour Akvo au Mali.

Ci-dessus: Intervieweur et interviewée. Mme Nana Dante et moi lors de l’interview au bureau Akvo de Bamako. Photo prise par Lars Heemskerk
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Monitoring water points during drought in Ethiopia

by Charles Kimani

Towards the end of 2015 and going into 2016, Ethiopia was faced with its worst drought for 50 years. This threatened to leave more than 10 million people without adequate food supply, including millions of children. Urgent intervention was needed to prevent a crisis. 

Akvo’s partner UNICEF Ethiopia took up the task, assembling an emergency task force together with World Vision and Oxfam. UNICEF Ethiopia does work that directly and indirectly impacts millions around the country on a daily basis; to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. 

Being among the organisations that have been heavily involved in improving water accessibility across the country, World Vision and Oxfam were tasked with conducting monitoring exercises on their respective water points in the hardest hit Woredas (the third level of Ethiopia’s administrative divisions, which are made up of a number of wards). Using the collected data, a live analysis was to be conducted to assess which woredas needed the most urgent intervention.

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Notes on the International Open Data Conference

by Nadia Gorchakova

Would an elderly grandma from a remote village in Sierra Leone know what Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are? She probably wouldn’t. And should she? Probably yes, considering that data collection to monitor the progress on SDGs should start on the community level. This rather thought-provoking statement kicked off the discussion around community involvement and SDG data at the International Open Data Conference (IODC) 2016.

Open data and SDGs
Collecting data from the ground level up requires a smart tool that fits the local context. In remote communities, poor or no internet connection is the reality. The fact that about 17% of world’s population is illiterate makes data collection an even more challenging endeavor. Contextual knowledge like that should guide our decisions about how we collect data and feed it back to the community. Sharing all collected data plays a critical empowerment role in closing the communication loop and, ultimately, keeping the grandma from Sierra Leone updated about the progress with SDGs.

Presentation by Aditya Agrawal from Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. Source: @OpenDataWatch via Twitter.

Now, let’s go one level higher.

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