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The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, is the United Nations agency for human settlements.

Above: (left to right) Siem Vaessen, Zimmerman & Zimmerman; Kenneth Kamau, UN-Habitat; Thomas Melin, UN-Habitat; Pontus Westerberg, UN-Habitat; Janette Elsworth, UN-Habitat. Photo by Mwarv Kirubi.

The team used Akvo Openaid to create an open data portal into UN-Habitat’s programmes that also integrates other types of data – making it an exceptionally useful information resource. UN-Habitat is also using Akvo RSR and currently piloting Akvo FLOW.

The Open UN-Habitat team is mostly based at UN-Habitat’s global headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. Akvo RSR is being used in projects in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and the Akvo FLOW pilot is in Kenya.

Open UN-Habitat is designed to open up UN-Habitat’s data to the public and present it in attractive, useful ways.

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According to Plato, “The beginning is the most important part of the work”. This has been true of UN-Habitat’s collaboration with Akvo in August 2012 which started with the setting up of an open data portal called Open UN-Habitat and the introduction of Akvo RSR into the Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Initiative (LVWATSAN) in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. 

Open UN-Habitat portal
In September 2012, Peter wrote this blog explaining how the whole Open UN-Habitat initiative came to be. Since then lots more has happened. For a start, the portal has been redesigned by Zimmerman & Zimmerman. It was initially based on the first iteration of which itself became the prototype for Akvo Openaid. It’s now much more appealing to the eyes.

After having started with visualising just the IATI project data, the team managed to also integrate other data sets UN-Habitat has available. This allows you, for instance, to see over time how the percentage of urban population has grown in a certain region, and what the future predictions are of that specific growth. You also get a global overview of the ‘City Prosperity Index’, which compares cities in terms of prosperity. In 2012 Copenhagen and Dublin scored the highest, while Lusaka and Monrovia the lowest. This is really a great example of what can be done by comparing and integrating different data sets.

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Using RSR in the Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Initiative 
One of the programmes UN-Habitat supports is the Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Initiative (LVWATSAN). It’s designed to help reduce pollution flowing into Lake Victoria through improvements to water supply and sanitation infrastructure in the secondary urban centres in the Lake Victoria Basin, which is shared by the five East African Community (EAC) countries – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda. Phase I of the programme, which was spearheaded by UN-Habitat, is nearing completion in the initial 10 pilot towns, and it’s now set to enter Phase II.

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Above: the Akvo Pages of UN-Habitat’s LVWATSAN projects.

UN-Habitat is using Akvo RSR to report on activities in all of the LVWATSAN Phase I towns. Each town is split into three main components; sanitation, solid waste management and water supply. In total there are 29 projects from 10 towns on RSR.

Who’s using Akvo RSR on the ground?
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Above: RSR training workshops took place for 14 UN-Habitat staff in Bondo, Western Kenya (top) and 29 people working for UN-Habitat’s local implementing partners in Masaka, Uganda.

Below: watch the video playlist of workshop participants in Masaka honing their video interview techniques.

This training workshop proved to be one of our most challenging ones ever. We had a deadly combination of no working power with also very limited internet connectivity. Luckily we managed to get our hands on a diesel powered generator and some modems for internet. All eventually sorted itself out, but we named this training the “Miracle in Masaka”. We also had our youngest ever participant – less than a year old – and she seemed to enjoy it too!

Akvo FLOW pilot in Kericho, Kenya
In December 2010, the African Development Bank (AfDB) approved a grant to finance approximately 89% of the estimated cost of LVWATSAN Phase II in 15 towns. The LVWATSAN II capacity-building programme is supposed to be done in a fast and effective manner meaning that the baseline studies must be carried out as quickly as possible. A decision was taken to do a pilot using Akvo FLOW in one of the LVWATSAN Phase II towns, where baseline data was to be collected. The town selected was Kericho in Kenya.

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Above: screenshot of map of data collected in Kericho, Kenya using Akvo FLOW

In May this year an Akvo FLOW training workshop was held in Kericho for enumerators and key UN-Habitat staff. Afterwards, data collection immediately took place and took two days to complete. The final report on the baseline data was completed three weeks after the workshop, which is in many ways truly remarkable.

Who’s using Akvo FLOW?

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Above: participants of the Akvo FLOW training workshop in Kericho, Kenya who went on to complete a baseline data report in just three weeks.

Future plans
What has been done until now is just the beginning of UN-Habitat’s long-term collaboration with Akvo. Plans are already in place for an extension of the Open UN-Habitat portal, using Akvo FLOW to collect baseline data in LVWATSAN Phase II towns in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania, and to get all of the 15 LVWATSAN Phase II towns on to Akvo RSR.

UN-Habitat projects on RSR will be linked to the Open UN-Habitat portal so that people can move easily between programme overviews and detailed information about individual projects. The baseline data collected with Akvo FLOW will also be made publicly available, and will link up to either the projects on RSR or directly to the Open UN-Habitat portal. This is what we like to call end-to-end transparency.

Luuk Diphoorn is the manager of Akvo’s East Africa hub.

Other stories in the Akvo partner heroes series: