The ambassador of the oceans has a message for us

by Aulia Rahman

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It’s 2.00am and dark. The moon is undergoing an eclipse and although the stars are bright, it’s not enough to dispel the darkness. There is the sound of the breeze stroking the palm trees mixed with the sound of waves hitting land, but apart from that, all is very quiet. A giant Chelonia mydas emerges silently from the sea and makes her way through some debris, crawling across the sand. For the green sea turtle, and most other sea turtle species, dry land is not a friendly place to go if you’re a creature with flippers. But this part of the lifecycle is a must, otherwise generations will be lost. Finally, after a quarter of an hour looking for a nesting spot, the 100kg creature is digging a hole 40-60cm deep and 30cm round in which to lay her eggs.

When I was first asked to witness the sea turtle nesting activity, I thought it would be like watching a hen laying eggs, but I was completely wrong. Sea turtles are extremely sensitive to light, but luckily for me, I was told that their hearing is quite poor, so whispering while watching them is still allowed. Many conservationists, especially those who work in this type of reptile conservation, can be hard to reach during the day. They’re awake mostly from dusk to dawn, especially during the peak nesting season which lasts two to four months a year. The work for them is a speedy race against egg poachers, and now it is worsened by coastal abrasion due to rising sea levels.

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Creating the first Akvo timeline

by Alvaro de Salvo

Three months ago, when I began working for Akvo, one of the first things I was asked to do was to create an organisational timeline. The objective was to build out a stream of the most relevant events of the organisation’s history. It would be an online place to have a visual story for us to reflect upon our past and how we got to where we are. It would also give team members, colleagues and partners a sense of the chronological DNA of our development.

Above: montage of images from the Akvo blog illustrating important events in Akvo’s history.

With a curious spirit and a methodical approach, I read over five hundred Akvo blogs and six annual reports and talked to several of my new colleagues. As an induction process for a newcomer, this was a privileged opportunity to rapidly understand the culture of the new organisation I recently dove into. It was also a lot of material to process! 

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On the road to open data: glimpses of the discourse in India

by Isha Parihar

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Recently I attended an India Open Data Community meeting organised by the World Bank in New Delhi that brought together government officials, academics, corporates, developers and a few development sector professionals to discuss social and economic open data opportunities in India and the emerging partnerships forming around them. 

Organised at the highly regarded Indian Institute of Technology, the meeting was focused on three key areas; experiences of institutions using open data around the world, how organisations need to prepare to tap into the growing potential of open data, and how to build and strengthen the community of data users and providers. The aim was to help assess the challenges and opportunities for extracting and using open government data in India, and to then communicate these at a subsequent National Conference on Open Data and Open API. 
India – open data opportunity
One of the key speakers at the meeting was Professor Jeanne Holm, a senior open data consultant at the World Bank and former evangelist for in the USA. In a brief presentation, she summarised the key reasons for governments’ willingness to open their data. These include improved internal efficiency and effectiveness, transparency, innovation, economic growth and better communication with citizens and other stakeholders. She highlighted some key observations about the opportunities for open data in India: the availability of a vast resource of data; a stable, open source platform for open government data; rich technological expertise and knowledge; and opportunities to design specific data sciences programmes in educational institutions. A rapidly growing community of open data enthusiasts in India, DataMeet, is also shaping the discourse on data and its civic uses and exploring engagement opportunities with a wide spectrum of open data users.
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Shining excitement during rainy days in Vietnam

by Anna-Marthe Sessink

During December 2014, ICCO invited us to give a training workshop to some of its local partners in Vietnam. Frodo and I travelled to Da Nang, the commercial and educational centre of Central Vietnam, where Le Hien, ICCO’s programme officer for Vietnam, arranged the training venue. The aim of the course was to introduce Akvo tools (Akvo RSR and Akvo FLOW) to the participants, and identify opportunities to help them introduce them into their own projects and work methods.

Beating Murphy’s law
Our trip got off to a shaky start when we arrived at Singapore airport to find our flight appeared to be cancelled. After asking around, we found it was only cancelled on the sign, and not in reality. We encountered our next challenge at the check-in counter, when I attempted to arrange the visa I should have already fixed before. Failing WiFi connections, cancelled payments, and delayed processing due to Vietnamese lunch breaks all took their toll. Finally, we got the proof printed, and we were just in time to take the flight.

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Learning by doing… at scale. It’s a team-effort

by Frodo van Oostveen

Since last year, Akvo has been involved in the Rural Water Supply mapping program in Lao PDR. We constantly talk about data-collection but this is only one part of the process. Bringing back relevant data and using this to draw conclusions and support ongoing policy is critical. In November in Vientiane, SNV Laos presented the results of an impressive one-year cycle of water supply mapping via mobile tools (proof of concept), which one chief village member described as “the best data the district of Savannakhet has ever had”. Indeed, our partner SNV just posted this nice photo story on the process, too. 

I never experienced that much excitement during a presentation of results before (on rural water systems), and checking out villages on interactive online maps, including providing answers via graphs on the condition of water systems, was mind-blowing and very valuable. As the maps are publicly accessible, everybody started to click through the districts of Phin and Atsaphone to learn from the more than 1000+ water systems on accessibility, reliability, quality, quantity and functionality.
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Reporting on culture and development in Suriname

by Lissy van Noort

RSR Commonsites Suriname

Above: participants on the first RSR training workshop in Suriname for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ International Cultural Policy Unit (ICE)
Photo by David de Bruijne

Last week, we organised our first ever RSR training course in Suriname. Together with our strategic partner CommonSites, we are working with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affair’s International Cultural Policy Unit (ICE) to bring online via RSR culture and development projects in eight focus countries.

In July this year, we organised an RSR training workshop in one of these focus countries; Kenya. My colleague Elma wrote this blog about it. 

This month it was time for partners in the second focus country, Suriname, to join an RSR training course organised by ICE, CommonSites, local partner Projekta and Akvo. David de Bruijne, creative director of CommonSites who is based in Curacao, facilitated the training which took place in Paramaribo. You can read about David’s experiences during the workshop in his blog.

Lissy van Noort is project manager at Akvo, based in Amsterdam.

Hacking #IATI aid development tools, for a better information chain

by Siem Vaessen


Last week Akvo had a technical encounter with Zimmerman & Zimmerman, in Amsterdam, of which I’m managing partner. We organised a 2 day hackathon to see how we could fit Aidstream to Akvo RSR and Akvo Openaid and vice versa. Aidstream provides organisations with an IATI publication tool out of the box. The goal of this hackathon was to A: establish a good understanding of the underlying technology that drives Aidstream, B: provide the Akvo RSR tech team with a better understanding on how to enrich the Aidstream datamodel with RSR data and C: enrich Akvo Openaid with a function to modify IATI activities on its front-end interface and make real-time changes to Aidstream.

One of our obvious conclusions is that creating and connecting aid development tracking tools is not a trivial task by any means. We do however found connecting more (open-source) “ICT4D” (information and communication technologies for development) tools will create tremendous added value to the community. While two days just covered our initial tasks at most, we still need to do some more gruntwork in order to finish some loose ends on our work. I will report on our final findings in the New Year.

I have tried to aggregate our findings from the hackathon and singled them out in once piece posted on, which you can read here.

Siem Vaessen is managing director of Zimmerman & Zimmerman, an Akvo technical partner based in Amsterdam.
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Connect4Change captures patient feedback in Uganda

by Jo Pratt

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Connect4Change (C4C) is a consortium of Dutch development organisations (Cordaid, Edukans, ICCO, IICD and Akvo), that are working to apply technology to accelerate the development of people in Africa and Latin America. Investing almost €50 million over five years, its vision is of a world where people – particularly women and young people – are able to access relevant information that lets them shape their own future. Information technology is the main enabler in this process.
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The journey to transparency for NDLink in Nigeria

by Charlotte Soedjak

ndlink2-1 copyIn the spring of 2014 we started working with NDLink (Niger Delta Link) to help publish their project portfolio online using Akvo RSR. NDLink is an initiative of PIND Foundation and aims to encourage partnerships in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Through its online platform, NDLink aims to unite stakeholders in the region, trying to close the existing communication gap and improve information sharing. Around 1,000 projects will be published on the NDLink website using the Akvo RSR platform. 

We’ve been working since June to collect all project data in the required RSR format and get the technical implementation process in place. This is a big effort and we’re proud to be able to now show the first of the NDLink projects online.

Above: data gathering with Global Women Sustainable Development representative in Warri, Delta State, with Chima Jeff, NDLink Intern. 
Below: Ese Emerhi, NDLink project manager at PIND. Source: NDLink. 
Bottom: the NDLink team.
Source: NDLink.
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I asked Ese Emerhi, the NDLink project manager at PIND, about her experiences of working on this project. 

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