Blog – Akvo Foundation https://akvo.org Mon, 16 Jul 2018 08:32:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Spice up your salad: Akvo joins new Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) projects https://akvo.org/blog/spice-up-your-salad/ https://akvo.org/blog/spice-up-your-salad/#respond Tue, 10 Jul 2018 08:28:52 +0000 https://akvo.org/?p=36617 Above: White pepper, during the SpiceUp kick-off meeting. Photo by Aulia Rahman. Denpasar, Indonesia. 8 May 2018.Earlier this year, the Netherlands... Read more

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geodata for farmers

Above: White pepper, during the SpiceUp kick-off meeting. Photo by Aulia Rahman. Denpasar, Indonesia. 8 May 2018.

Earlier this year, the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) announced six new projects in the third call for the Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) Facility. Using satellite and mobile data, G4AW provides information to smallholder farmers to increase sustainable food production and achieve more effective use of inputs.

Akvo is already part of two G4AW projects, GreenCoffee in Vietnam and SmartSeeds in Indonesia, and has now joined SpiceUp in Indonesia and Angkor Salad in Cambodia. Both projects kicked off in May 2018. 

Akvo’s role is to help capture and understand high quality data, assist the provision of fertiliser advice using Akvo Caddisfly, support with the integration of systems for one shared data platform, and help the partners in the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the project. By translating data into relevant and timely advice for farmers, they’re able to increase and improve their food production in a sustainable way. 


SpiceUp, Indonesia


The SpiceUp project, led by the Dutch spice company Verstegen, will focus on the implementation of a financially sustainable information service. 

Over 100,000 pepper farmers in Lampung, Bangka Belitung and East and West Kalimantan will receive advice on drought and irrigation, fertiliser, Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) and Sustainable Tracing Systems. Sustainable Tracing Systems allow buyers to trace where the pepper comes from, leading to farmers becoming more valued by potential buyers. It also helps farmers improve the quality of their produce.

Read more about Akvo’s work in SpiceUp.


Farmers in Indonesia and Cambodia receive timely advice directly to their mobile phones, allowing them to increase and improve their food production in a sustainable way. #Akvo #G4AW
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Angkor Salad, Cambodia

Above: Vegetables on display at a market in Phnom Penh. Photo by Charlotte Soedjak. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 24 May 2018.

Angkor Salad is led by ICCO and focuses on the implementation of a geodata-based information service that supports at least 100,000 vegetable farmers in 16 provinces of Cambodia. 

Farmers will receive real-time updates and advice to their mobile phones on irrigation, fertiliser, crop planning, marketing information and Khmer Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) compliance, enabling them to increase their production, income and food security while reducing their inputs of water, fertiliser and pesticides.

Read updates about Akvo’s work in Angkor Salad. We’ll be writing in more depth about these projects, and the impact they have on farmers in the region, as they develop.

Do you want to know more about the work we’re doing in South East Asia and Pacific? Get to know us

Charlotte Soedjak is Programme Manager for Southeast Asia and Pacific region, based in Indonesia. You can follow her on Twitter @CharlotteSoed.

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Akvo West Africa Team Week 2018 https://akvo.org/blog/west-africa-team-week-2018/ https://akvo.org/blog/west-africa-team-week-2018/#respond Fri, 22 Jun 2018 14:14:34 +0000 https://akvo.org/?p=34659 Photo de famille du staff de Akvo au bord du fleuve Niger. Photo prise par Bintou Koné.Bamako (Mali), 02 avril... Read more

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Photo de famille du staff de Akvo au bord du fleuve Niger. Photo prise par Bintou Koné.

Bamako (Mali), 02 avril 2018 à 10h:05mn, l’équipe du Hub de Ouagadougou (Burkina) atterrissait á l’aéroport international Modibo Keita de Bamako pour la troisième édition du Team Week de Akvo en Afrique de l’Ouest. J’étais enthousiaste mais je me demandais au même moment comment allait se passer cette rencontre car nous sommes maintenant deux Hubs séparés qui interviennent dans la même région Ouest-Africaine.Vraiment particulier ce Team Week, nous avons eu droit à une journée de prise de contact, deux journées d’échanges sur l’avenir des 2 hubs car travailler ensemble pour un avenir radieux de Akvo dans la sous-région est capital. Une quatrième journée a été consacrée à l’écriture de projets. Caroline Figuères, consultante chez Akvo, venue des Pays-Bas était chargée de faciliter nos journées et de nous dispenser la formation sur la rédaction de projets.

Quatre jours de partage

Au jour de notre arrivée, nous avons eu droit à une bonne ballade sur le fleuve Niger, moment de détente et de communion. Nous avons ensuite eu droit à un bon diner pendant lequel notre collègue Lars Heemskerk a organié son traditionnel Quiz pop. C’était un jeu entre trois groupes. Le groupe qui totalisait le maximum de Le groupe qui a le plus de points remporte la compétition. Chaque groupe avait cette ardeur et une telle volonté de gagner. N’était-ce pas un simple jeu ? Si si, c’était un jeu. Cependant, chez Akvo, chacun veut donner le meilleur de lui-même et c’est ce qui fait notre force.

Ci-dessus: une photo des membres de l’équipe pendant la ballade sur le fleuve Niger. Photo prise par Wendemi Ilboudo.

Les 3 et 4 avril, dans la salle intitulée « Université » du Zoo de Bamako, nous avions eu l’occasion de discuter de la vraie raison de notre rencontre : le futur de Akvo en Afrique de l’Ouest. Pour les responsables de nos deux hubs, une bonne collaboration entre les deux équipes est primordiale. Pour y parvenir, faire un bilan était nécessaire. C’est dans cette optique que nous avons d’abord assisté à des présentations de Dagmar (Manager sortant du hub de Bamako), Emeline (Manager du hub de Ouagadougou), Abdoulaye (Hub Manager entrant du hub de Bamako). Leurs communications portaient essentiellement sur les résultats de la rencontre des Hubs Managers qui a eu lieu en janvier 2018 à Akvo Amsterdam (le siège), les perspectives pour 2018, le concept de solutions et celui de la théorie du changement (ToC) mis en place par Akvo. Leurs partages m’ont permise de comprendre les difficultés auxquelles Akvo fait face et les portes de sorties possibles pour y remédier. Ensuite, nous avons pu travailler par petit groupe de 4/5 sur les challenges et opportunités, la division des tâches, la planification efficiente et la communication entre les deux équipes.

En fin de compte, pendant deux jours seulement, nous avons mis sur la table des suggestions pertinentes qui aideront sans aucun doute aideront à consolider la collaboration entre les deux bureaux en l’Afrique de l’Ouest.

Ci-dessus (De gauche à droite): Nana Danté, Emeline Béréziat et Lars Heemskerk en session de discussion. Photo prise par Wendemi Ilboudo.

La quatrième journée, celle du 5 avril a été consacrée à la formation sur la rédaction de projets. Grâce à sa méthode participative, Caroline a su tirer profit (des idées) de chaque personne présente. Cette formation était la bienvenue. Elle a été une source de rappel pour certains et un cadre d’apprentissage pour d’autres.Bien que je ne sois pas du domaine technique, je trouve que ce genre de session pourrait aider de nombreux membres de notre équipe à fournir de meilleurs services à nos partenaires locaux. Dès notre retour, j’ai vu qu’Emeline avait déjà mis en pratique le tableau de Canvas lorsqu’elle voulait répondre à un appel d’offre d’une institution gouvernementale du Burkina. Nous avons beaucoup appris et la capitalisation se jugeait nécessaire.

Ci-dessus (de gauche à droite: Bintou, Rabdo et Claire): photo d’une mise en scène lors de l’exercice de rencontre d’un partenaire local. Photo prise par Wendemi Ilboudo.

Les actions à venir


Malgré la courte durée, comparativement aux autres Team Week auxquels j’avais déjà participés, ces trois journées nous ont permis de prendre conscience de l’importance d’avoir un seul objectif, une vision commune quel que soit le hub d’appartenance.
Ainsi, d’un commun accord, nous avons voulu mettre en place certaines procédures qui faciliteront cette collaboration entre nos deux hubs:
  • La mise en pratique du concept de «One Akvo »,
  • L’élaboration d’un guide de communication interpersonnelle,
  • Un document officiel relatif à la procédure à suivre pour la mise à disposition du personnel d’un hub pour prêter main forte à l’autre,
  • L’élaboration d’un livret de poche relatif à la rédaction de projets.


Enrichissant, je peux dire que cette troisième de notre Team Week l’a été et j’espère que toutes les actions seront mises en oeuvre avant la prochaine édition. Pour savoir ce qu’il en sera, restez connecté-e à notre site web. Mais avant cela, vous pouvez revivre ces trois jours de partage à travers la collection photo publiée sur Flickr et la vidéo de deux minutes ci-dessus, également disponible sur Akvo.TV.

Ilboudo Wendemi est Chargée de communication pour Akvo Burkina en Afrique de l’Ouest. Vous pouvez la suivre sur twitter @IWendemi.

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The evolution of Akvo https://akvo.org/blog/the-evolution-of-akvo/ https://akvo.org/blog/the-evolution-of-akvo/#respond Thu, 14 Jun 2018 15:13:06 +0000 https://akvo.org/?p=36511 Above: The evolution of Akvo. Photo by Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson.This year, Akvo will turn ten. Looking back, we started with an... Read more

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Above: The evolution of Akvo. Photo by Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson.

This year, Akvo will turn ten. Looking back, we started with an idea and seven people. Now, we are over a hundred, having worked with over 200 organisations and 20 governments. Working together, we have helped these organisations and governments capture and understand reliable data which they can act upon; data that’s being used to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

The last few years have seen rapid growth. Our team has doubled in size since 2015, our portfolio of tools and services has grown, and we’ve expanded into new sectors and regions. Like any organisation that’s growing at this pace, we’ve also faced challenges. How can we ensure that we’re helping organisations become more effective, accountable and collaborative so that they can reach lasting and inclusive impact?

Above: Akvo’s management team and supervisory board on a field visit. Photo by Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson.

Looking back, looking forward

Last year, we took a step back to look at the work we’ve been doing and crafted a Theory of Change (ToC) for Akvo. By looking back over the past ten years, and looking forward to the future, the ToC gave us clarity on what it is we do best, and how we can focus on achieving the biggest possible positive impact.

We believe in equal access to public services, reliable infrastructure and a safer environment for everyone. We are convinced that this will happen faster if governments and non-governmental organisations become more effective, accountable and collaborative.

We help people in governments and organisations achieve this through solutions based on digital tools, knowledge and processes. We have recently formalised our approach, which we call: Design, Capture, Understand and Act. Our skills, experience, and tools and services lend themselves to a holistic and comprehensive approach to data and development.

We often see organisations and governments operating in isolation with different approaches and different systems for using data. Data gathering and storage is largely scattered and rarely coordinated, and a systematic approach to data is lacking. As we reviewed our work and our impact last year, as well as the crucial need for the effective use of data, we decided to concentrate our efforts where we know we can make the biggest difference.

Achieving lasting and inclusive impact

In order to ensure sustainable service delivery, we’ve decided to focus on large scale, national programmes, primarily in the water and sanitation sector and agriculture. By working with large partners, from UNICEF to the World Bank, we can ensure reliable working relationships with national governments and the resources to really make a change. Going forward, we will be concentrating on offering integrated solutions, such as national water monitoring. We also see a significant opportunity to make an impact in small-hold farmer certification processes and other areas related to agriculture data. We’ll continue to work in other areas, particularly where they touch on our core focus, like disaster response.

With our renewed focus, we will help you evolve a coherent and sustainable approach to data at national scale.

Above: Akvo’s Amsterdam team’s Monday morning call. Photo by Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson.

Changes to our team

To align our work and teams with the Akvo Theory of Change, our new formalised approach, and to take advantage of our new scale and geographic reach, we have updated the structure and management of some of our teams.

We have created a solutions team, which incorporates our central professional services teams (trainers, consultants, technical support) and also our software development team. This is so we can better implement coherent solutions that require method, process and technology.

The solutions team is lead by Peter van der Linde, one of the Akvo co-founders who has a very broad set of experiences both within and outside of Akvo. Most recently, he set up and was leading our South East Asia Pacific hub in Denpasar, Indonesia. We are also taking the Flow, Lumen and Caddisfly product teams and putting them under the leadership of one product manager, Jana Gombitova, who was previously the product manager for Flow. The work on the Akvo approach has shown that we need to streamline the development to make for a better user experience with the Akvo data platform and a more effective software development team.

We’ve also created an international operations team, which is lead by Hans Merton. Hans has twenty years of experience as a manager and director of programmes and divisions in the field of environmental and water management consultancy, and will be coordinating and overseeing the implementation of programmes and projects by our hub managers.

— 

We’re confident that these changes will only strengthen the work we do with our partners and allow us to have a larger positive impact on the world. We’ve come a long way in ten years, and are optimistic about the years to come.

If you have any questions about these changes, feel free to reach out to your usual contact person at Akvo. We look forward to working with you for another ten years!

Thomas Bjelkeman is the co-founder and co-director of Akvo, based in Stockholm. You can follow him on Twitter @bjelkeman.

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Marketing Akvo Part 2 – Rethinking the way we present ourselves https://akvo.org/blog/marketing-akvo-part-2-rethinking-the-way-we-present-ourselves/ https://akvo.org/blog/marketing-akvo-part-2-rethinking-the-way-we-present-ourselves/#respond Thu, 14 Jun 2018 13:28:49 +0000 https://akvo.org/?p=36473 Above: Adjusting the sails of the Malbec, my first sailing boat. Photo by Alvaro de Salvo.You can’t change the direction of... Read more

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Above: Adjusting the sails of the Malbec, my first sailing boat. Photo by Alvaro de Salvo.

You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can always adjust your sails to reach the port you want. And that is exactly what we’ve been doing at Akvo over the last year.

For some time, many of us at Akvo have felt that the way we talk about ourselves wasn’t reflecting the reality, depth or scope of the work we’ve been doing around the world. Since 2015, we’ve been growing at a fast pace in a very challenging sector, and in regions that demand fast and sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most urgent problems.

During this time, Akvo’s marketing has always been profoundly influenced (and constrained) by the fast-moving nature of our work. Our business is at the crossroads of technology and people, our presence is spread across five continents, and our partners address a wide number of issues using 
our approach.

There is a reason why I’ve only worked for non-profits. Nearly half of the world’s population — more than three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. There is a big gap between the poorest and the richest people in the world. According to the World Health Organisation, 2.1 billion people lack safe drinking water at home, more than twice as many lack safe sanitation. There is literally no time to waste in what we do. That’s why we needed to update our story so that people could understand how it is we can help them.


You can't change the direction of the wind, but you can always adjust your sails to reach the port you want. And that is exactly what we’ve been doing at Akvo over the last year. #Akvo
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In April 2017, we created the new Marketing and Communications department, and together with the team, we’ve been working nonstop to revitalise the core aspects of our story, to bring clarity to our partners on the ways we can help them, and to give focus to our future.

We started by asking ourselves some important questions and reflecting on how to best tell the answers:

  • What change do we want to make?
  • Who are we trying to support, and how?
  • What can we promise our partners?
  • Where do we work and how do we tell those stories?

What change do we want to make?

At Akvo, we believe in equal access to public services, reliable infrastructure and a safer environment for everyone. We are convinced that this will happen faster if governments and non-governmental organisations become more effective, accountable and collaborative. With our combination of tools, services, local expertise and sector knowledge, our partners improve the management of water, sanitation and agriculture, with a strong commitment to accelerating the progress of the sustainable development goals. We’ve put together a new About Us page, a two minute video to help you see the whole picture and we’ve also made the latest version of our Theory of Change open and explicit.

Who are we trying to support, and how?

If you are talking to everyone, then you are not talking to anyone. Akvo has a wide diversity of partners, ranging from small, midsize and big NGOs to private companies and national governments. These partners are involved in multiple sectors, from water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to agriculture, and from disaster relief response to education and health. We’ve reached a stage in which our network expands across many sectors and involves multiple actors. We needed to decide which conversations to have and with whom if we really want to deepen our impact and build on the work done over the last ten years. At Akvo, we’ve always understood marketing in general as my friend Mark Charmer put it. However, understanding the differences between business to business marketing (B2B), business to consumer marketing (B2C) and business to government marketing (B2G) has become crucial for us. I like to believe we’ll always market Akvo human to human (H2H), but for the coming years, we’ll be focusing on understanding how to reach out and relate to the people in governments and organisations that can truly achieve lasting and sustainable impact with our help.

In the context of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law that has been in full force since 25 May 2018, Akvo has focused on ensuring compliance and a lot of work has been done on the high risk areas within products, departments, processes and policies. This means our marketing is also changing, and we’ll only be having conversations with those explicitly wanting to have them with us.

What can we promise our partners?

Akvo started as a tool provider, first with Akvopedia, then with RSR, and then Flow, after it Sites, then Caddisfly, and Lumen. True. Yet, this is only a partial (however crucial) element of the value we add. As my friend Amitangshu Acharya once pointed out, tools don’t produce data, processes do: “We have great tools, but they don’t guarantee use by default. Unless tools are institutionalised, they come with an expiry date. Institutionalising tools goes beyond training sessions.” I would add that the same process, if done correctly, is what leads you to the right information and knowledge for decision making.

Although Akvo has been also been providing services next to our tools for a long time, it was not with the clarity of purpose or the level of detail that is now necessary for us to explain. Akvo’s Theory of Change made these necessities explicit, and inspired us to develop specific services to support our partners in designing their projects so that they can capture and understand reliable data which they can act upon. We are not interested in helping our partners collect the wrong data faster. Making sure our partners succeed at every step of their data journey is something we’ve learnt along the way and are committed to.

Back in 2015, we started to simplify our narrative. As our portfolio grew, it became increasingly difficult to explain our tools and services separately, not to mention the efforts in bringing these to market. Back then, we rolled out the  “Capture, Understand, Share” triad to overarch all of our work. In 2017 and 2018, we revised it once again and tied it together in what we call 
our approach, an updated overview of where we stand now, freshly shared this week.

Above: Our approach to your data journey.

We are not interested in helping our partners collect the wrong data faster. Making sure our partners succeed at every part of their data journey is something we’ve learnt along the way and we are committed to. #Akvo
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We also launched a 
self assessment tool, which you can find on our homepage, that will help potential partners gain clarity on their needs, and quickly walk them through how Akvo can assist with any problems they come across in their data journey. The intention is to focus on understanding their challenges first, rather than presenting our set of tools and services to people that may not have the depth of knowledge to understand what it is they need and why. By doing the self assessment, potential partners will know straight away whether we can be of help, and how.

Above: Our new self assessment tool, on our homepage.

Global presence with regional knowledge, bottom up.

A deep understanding of local context is key in providing partners with the best possible support. That’s why we have regional hubs in five continents. The rest of our team work remotely from places like Sweden, Bangladesh, Colombia, Spain, Australia, the United Kingdom, Nepal and Uganda. Since our beginnings in Europe, Akvo has built regional presence since 2012, when we set up our first regional Hub in East Africa. Later came South Asia, then West Africa, Americas and Southeast Asia and Pacific.



Although it has always been a differentiator, we’ve previously struggled to put our regional hubs in the limelight. As someone coming from Latin America, I understand the importance of dealing with people that know your context, and can relate in your own language. Our hubs are unique, mainly because of the (often interdisciplinary, proactive and polyglot) teams that work in them. Running global Marketing and Communications is always challenging, as finding the resources, time and skills to tell stories in multiple contexts and languages isn’t easy. We’ve recently released regional pages to highlight the different languages that are spoken in each hub, the diversity of professions composing each team, and the local projects and partners each hub works with. Keep an eye on these as they’ll become even more dynamic and active in the coming months. We’ve also come up with a new-cost replicable pattern to tell our partners’ stories and grasp our involvement in them. I invite you to have a look at some of them, like this one, this onethis one, this one or this one, just to name a few. They are truly inspiring. 


At Akvo, we believe in equal access to public services, reliable infrastructure and a safer environment for everyone. We are convinced that this will happen faster if governments and non-governmental organisations become more…
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What’s next?

We’ve trimmed our sails and also got wind on our stern. Our story better reflects where we are now. In the coming months, we are going to expand on the importance of having a methodical approach that proves to be successful in sustainable development work. And we’ll be also sharing more regional stories of positive change that inspire all of us to move faster and forward towards equal access to public services, reliable infrastructure and a safer environment for everyone.

Alvaro de Salvo is Head of Global Marketing and Communications at Akvo, based in Amsterdam. You can follow him on Twitter: @aj_desalvo

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Creating Akvo’s Theory of Change https://akvo.org/blog/akvo-theory-of-change/ https://akvo.org/blog/akvo-theory-of-change/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 15:00:31 +0000 https://akvo.org/?p=34661 Above: When in doubt, zoom out. Photo by Anita van der Laan.This time, change happened from the bottom up: three... Read more

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Akvo theory of change

Above: When in doubt, zoom out. Photo by Anita van der Laan.

This time, change happened from the bottom up: three young Akvonauts – Annabelle, Christien and Geert – went to a planning, monitoring and evaluation (PME) course and came back with the realisation that something needed to change. The course made it clear to them that Akvo monitored key performance indicators at output level [1], but not for outcomes [2] nor for the impact [3] we want to contribute to. As a consequence, we were unable to demonstrate how we support our partners in becoming more effective, accountable and collaborative so that they can achieve lasting and inclusive impact.

The three chartered me, one of Akvo’s planning, monitoring, evaluation and learning (PMEL) specialists, to help them to figure this out using a systemic Theory of Change (ToC) approach. As a result, we have renewed clarity on what Akvo wants to achieve, what we need to do to make that happen, and how we can monitor progress at outcome level.

The Akvo ToC has come a long way in the organisation since those three Akvonauts attended that PME course. It has provided focus and continues to demonstrate how each team plays a key and complementary role in making the outcomes happen. Importantly, the ToC has been instrumental in highlighting that if we want to contribute to our partners’ increased effectiveness, tools are important, but they are not enough. Although Akvo has been providing services next to our tools for a long time, it was not with the clarity of purpose or the level of detail that is now necessary. The ToC made these necessities explicit and inspired us to develop specific services to support our partners in designing their projects so that they can capture and understand reliable data which they can act upon. It has been instrumental in shaping our approach to development and our direction as a rapidly evolving organisation.

In this blog, we’ll explain what a ToC is, describe how our ToC journey took shape, and introduce the Akvo ToC.

What is a Theory of Change?

A Theory of Change consists of two main components: a diagram and a narrative. The diagram visualises how strategies (what we do) connect to expected outcomes (what our partners will do better) and expected impact (improvements at the level of the communities our partners are serving). The narrative explains the causal assumptions: why we believe that “if X happens, then Y happens.” The process of developing a ToC is participatory, so that different perspectives are taken on board, a common understanding of context is gained and co-ownership of the strategies, expected outcomes and impact-focus is generated. With monitoring findings, ToCs are regularly reflected upon and adjusted where necessary.
Akvo Theory of Change

Above: A diagram showing the Theory of Change development process.

The ToC approach has been around for over ten years [4] and is based on systems thinking. In short, systems thinking can be explained with three key elements:

  1. Everything is interconnected: every action has an effect; change causes a chain of changes, whether we are aware of them or not.
  2. Perspective: different people have different perspectives, and all are valuable to understanding the bigger picture.
  3. Boundary setting/zooming in and out: a piece of reality is intentionally and explicitly chosen to concentrate on, to zoom into. That is the part of reality a project will focus on. But because everything is connected, zooming out to the bigger picture is needed to discover causes of project issues, and effects of project actions, often outside the boundary of the project.

With the development of a Theory of Change, relevant stakeholders zoom out together to look at the bigger picture before zooming into the scope of a programme. With alignment on the expected results, the strategies can be worked out into what concretely needs to be done (activities) to make the expected outcomes happen, and who is best placed to do what. With a ToC which is co-owned by all involved, it is a small step towards deciding which expected results should be monitored, and how.

How did we create Akvo’s Theory of Change?

Before deciding what impact we want to contribute to, and which changes are needed for that to happen, we zoomed out to look at the bigger picture. Which actors do we work with, which problems and opportunities do we see? Once we had mapped out the context, we could define the intended impact: we want our partners to achieve inclusive and sustainable impact.

Then came the more complicated part: making explicit the interconnected outcomes needed to contribute to impact. For us, it’s the improved capacities and performance of our partners. How does what we do help our partners to collect the data they need to monitor progress; to analyse findings so they can make informed management decisions; to share their achievements with a wider audience; and to find actors who are working in the same sector or area?

With the expected outcomes figured out in cause-effect relationships, we could describe the strategies. What does our organisation need to do to make those outcomes happen?

With the very first draft Akvo Theory of Change constructed, we took it to the next phase by including three colleagues from other Akvo offices. In January 2017, we locked ourselves in the Akvo attic to further improve the Theory of Change diagram and formulate the narrative of causal assumptions.


Theory of change

Above: The first draft of Akvo’s Theory of Change. Akvo Amsterdam office. 21 February 2017. Photo by Anita van der Laan.

This second version was shared with several colleagues all over the world for feedback: is it logical, is it complete, do you recognise your team in it? Such feedback rounds are very important to get other peoples’ perspectives and to create shared ownership. All feedback was integrated into the final version, which was presented to and approved by the management team in November 2017.

The Akvo Theory of Change

akvo theory of change

Above: Akvo’s Theory of Change.

In short, the Akvo ToC shows that our partners are expected to become more effective for two reasons:

First, because they collect and analyse data to generate insights about the present situation, which they use for decision making.

Partners will have the insights needed to make decisions if they collect, clean, analyse and reflect upon quality data. But they need to know how to collect and analyse data and generate insights, and have the tools to do it efficiently. Before that, they need to know which data they need to collect to make their decisions. If they want to track their programme’s progress, they need to know which results they aim to achieve, which indicators they will monitor, and how they will do that.

Akvo supports partners in the design of their programmes and monitoring frameworks so that when they collect data, they collect the right data. Akvo develops partners’ capacities in collecting, cleaning, analysing and visualising data, and in discovering insights.

The second reason our partners are expected to become more effective is that they communicate their project results and collaborate with other stakeholders.

To be collaborative, optimise resources, and build on the insights of others, organisations need to find new partners and learn from each other’s insights. To do this they need to share their disaggregated data, their project (results) information and their insights, transparently. Akvo supports partners, with tools and services, in sharing data to increase transparency, accountability and collaboration, and to find data of others.

Organisations and governments need well-performing (user-friendly, reliable, scalable, supported, cost-effective, user-driven, future-ready) ICT tools for data collection and analysis, and for sharing. Akvo continuously improves its suite of interconnected tools for data collection, analysis, and sharing.

Where will our Theory of Change take us next?


In the meantime, two of the three original ToC instigators have moved out of the Amsterdam office to East and West Africa, respectively. Both have already started infecting their new teams with their ToC enthusiasm, for example by using the ToC to review and improve the activity overview of a large multi-country programme.

Akvo is a learning organisation, in software development and services. We are therefore preparing to monitor a small selection of expected outcomes so that we can learn about what works, what doesn’t, and why. The Akvo ToC will also be used to facilitate an annual qualitative outcome assessment together with our partners so that we can continue to improve the support we offer to our partners in becoming more effective, collaborative and accountable. Because it is through connecting with our partners that we can contribute to a more inclusive and lasting impact. 

Do you want to know more about the Akvo Theory of Change or how to design one for your organisation or programme? Get in touch with us.

Anita van der Laan is Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Specialist at Akvo. She has more than ten years of experience in facilitating the development and review of Theories of Change with organisations and partnerships in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe. You can find her on Twitter @ASvdL.

Footnotes

[1] An output is the result of our activities, outputs are in our sphere of control.
[2] An outcome is defined as a change in the behaviour, relationships, actions, activities, policies, or practices of an individual, group, community, organisation, or institution. The formulation describes which specific local stakeholder is doing what differently. Outcomes are in our sphere of influence.
[3] An impact is a change at the level of end-users, communities, constituents. Impact is in our sphere of interest, but we can only contribute to it.
[4] Earlier ToCs were called Results Chains. They are also referred to as Intervention Logics. The ToC approach is often compared to the more classic Logical Framework approach. There are three main differences between ToCs and Logical Frameworks, or Logic Models: ToCs zoom into the outcome level to make explicit how we believe change happens; ToCs are meant for programmes where change is not predictable (complex situations), they are flexible and are adjusted regularly; ToCs show and explain cause-effect relations, which are not linear.

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Per user rate limiting with OpenID connect and Istio in Kubernetes https://akvo.org/blog/per-user-rate-limiting-with-openid-connect-and-istio-in-kubernetes/ https://akvo.org/blog/per-user-rate-limiting-with-openid-connect-and-istio-in-kubernetes/#respond Thu, 31 May 2018 11:30:37 +0000 https://akvo.org/?p=35552 Above: The Queues by Mark Walley on Flickr.To make sure that each of our partners is able to use Akvo’s API, we... Read more

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server queue

Above: The Queues by Mark Walley on Flickr.

To make sure that each of our partners is able to use Akvo’s API, we need to ensure that nobody is able to abuse it. We want to ensure that each partner has access to a fair share of the servers’ resources.

In the case of HTTP APIs, this usually means limiting the rate at which partners can make requests. A system that performs rate limiting needs to:

  1. Identify who is making the HTTP request.
  2. Count how many requests each user has made.
  3. Reject any user request once that user has depleted their allotment.

There are plenty of open source products and libraries out there that you can choose from, but we decided to give Istio a try.

For such a task, Istio is a little bit heavy-handed. However, since Istio is a service mesh, it also provides routing, load balancing, blue/green deployment, canary releases, traffic forking, circuit breakers, timeouts, network fault injection and telemetry. What’s more, it also offers internal TLS encryption and Role-Based access control, which is very important for us given our commitment to the upcoming GDPR legislation.

Identifying the user

Akvo’s API already uses the OpenID connect standard and Istio comes with a handy JWT-auth filter, so we just need to configure the filter to point to our OpenID provider:

apiVersion: config.istio.io/v1alpha2
kind: EndUserAuthenticationPolicySpec
metadata:
  name: flow-api-auth-policy
  namespace: default
spec:
  jwts:
    - issuer: https://kc.akvotest.org/auth/realms/akvo
      jwks_uri: https://kc.akvotest.org/auth/realms/akvo/protocol/openid-connect/certs

And then we need to tell Istio to apply the authentication spec to our backend service:

apiVersion: config.istio.io/v1alpha2
kind: EndUserAuthenticationPolicySpecBinding
metadata:
  name: flow-api-auth-policy-binding
  namespace: default
spec:
  policies:
    - name: flow-api-auth-policy
      namespace: default
  services:
    - name: flow-api
      namespace: default

With this, if there is a JWT access token present in the request, Istio will validate it and will add the principal to the request, but if there is no token, the requests will still go through.

Enforcing a user


Given that any access to the API must be done with an access token, we can add a policy rule to enforce it. 
To configure a policy we will need:

A handler, which in this particular case is a Denier adapter that will return a 401:

apiVersion: "config.istio.io/v1alpha2"
kind: denier
metadata:
  name: flow-api-handler
  namespace: default
spec:
  status:
    code: 16
    message: You are not authorized to access the service
An instance, which in this case is a Check Nothing template as the handler requires no data:

apiVersion: "config.istio.io/v1alpha2"
kind: checknothing
metadata:
  name: flow-api-denyrequest
  namespace: default
spec:
A rule, which tells Istio when to run the action (which is the handler plus the instance). In our case, if the request is for the API and the request has no principal:

apiVersion: "config.istio.io/v1alpha2"
kind: rule
metadata:
  name: flow-api-deny
  namespace: default
spec:
  match: destination.labels["run"] == "flow-api" && (request.auth.principal|"unauthorized") == "unauthorized"
  actions:
  - handler: flow-api-handler.denier.default
    instances: [flow-api-denyrequest.checknothing.default]

See the Istio documentation if you are not familiar with the handler, instance or rule concepts.

Counting usage

First, we need to define what we want to count:

apiVersion: config.istio.io/v1alpha2
kind: quota
metadata:
  name: requestcount
  namespace: istio-system
spec:
  dimensions:
    destination: destination.labels["run"] | destination.service | "unknown"
    user: request.auth.principal|"unauthorized"

We are using two dimensions, the user and the destination service so that we can have different limits for different backend services.

To do the actual counting:

apiVersion: config.istio.io/v1alpha2
kind: QuotaSpec
metadata:
  name: flow-api-quota
  namespace: default
spec:
  rules:
    - quotas:
        - quota: requestcount.quota.istio-system
          charge: 1

Istio rate limiting gives you the flexibility to “charge” more for requests that could be more expensive to execute, but in our case, we’ve decided to treat all the requests the same.

And last, we need to wire the counting with the backend service:

apiVersion: config.istio.io/v1alpha2
kind: QuotaSpecBinding
metadata:
  name: flow-api-quota-binding
  namespace: default
spec:
  quotaSpecs:
    - name: flow-api-quota
      namespace: default
  services:
    - name: flow-api
      namespace: default

Enforcing usage quotas

Now that we know who you are and how to count, we need to define what is a reasonable usage. We do this through a Memory Quota adapter:

apiVersion: config.istio.io/v1alpha2
kind: memquota
metadata:
  name: handler
  namespace: istio-system
spec:
  quotas:
  - name: requestcount.quota.istio-system
    maxAmount: 60
    validDuration: 10s
    overrides:
    - dimensions:
        destination: flow-api
      maxAmount: 20
      validDuration: 10s

So we allow up to ten requests per second for each user, except if the requests go to the Flow API, in which case we allow up to two requests per second.

Note that in production you will want to use a Redis Quota instead of a Memory Quota, as the Memory Quota is ephemeral and local to the Mixer instance.

Finally, we create a policy rule to wire up the quota with the counters:

apiVersion: config.istio.io/v1alpha2
kind: rule
metadata:
  name: quota
  namespace: istio-system
spec:
  actions:
  - handler: handler.memquota
    instances:
    - requestcount.quota

Testing

Now, we can check that everything is working as expected and that no user is able to abuse the system. For the testing, we changed the quota to one request every three seconds. Here is the result:

You can find a version of the test script here and all the code above here

Are we done?

Istio allows us to ensure that all of our partners get a fair share of the resources, with a little bit of configuration and without having to modify or change any of our existing code, which is a big plus.

But rate limiting is just one part of making Akvo’s platforms more stable. Istio also comes with a lot more goodies to add to that stability, and to make it more secure, which for sure we will investigate in the near future.

Dan Lebrero is a developer at Akvo. You can follow him on Twitter @danlebrero.
Want to join the team as a developer at Akvo? Have a look at our vacancies.

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L’histoire interactive des installations d’approvisionnement en eau au Mali https://akvo.org/blog/lhistoire-interactive-des-installations-dapprovisionnement-en-eau-au-mali/ https://akvo.org/blog/lhistoire-interactive-des-installations-dapprovisionnement-en-eau-au-mali/#respond Mon, 28 May 2018 10:43:15 +0000 https://akvo.org/?p=36604 Ci-dessus: L’enquêteur Halidou Kamaté dresse l’inventaire d’un point d’eau dans le cercle de Bla, région de Ségou au Mali. Photo... Read more

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Ci-dessus: L’enquêteur Halidou Kamaté dresse l’inventaire d’un point d’eau dans le cercle de Bla, région de Ségou au Mali. Photo prise par Birama Sangaré.
Grâce au lancement en ligne du site de l’atlas des points d’eau du Mali, toute personne ayant accès à Internet peut désormais savoir l’état des installations d’approvisionnement en eau au Mali. Pour la première fois, les populations peuvent interagir avec les installations d’eau du pays et, y compris faire des recherches sur des informations détaillées relatives à l’emplacement, à la situation et à la population locale. Avec des données collectées entre 2016 et 2018 lors de l’inventaire national des points d’eau du Mali, le portail de l’eau combine différentes sources de données en des indicateurs compréhensifs. Cela permet aux internautes de filtrer les tableaux pertinents, de faire ressortir des graphiques en temps réel et de parcourir des cartes interactives. La mise à disposition de ce portail de l’eau marque une étape cruciale vers un suivi efficace des installations d’eau au Mali. Ce portail fournit au ministère et au public des informations utiles pour la prise de décision concernant les infrastructures durables de l’eau. Dans ce blog, nous décrivons les différentes étapes nécessaires pour passer des données brutes à un partage d’information perspicace. 


Des données brutes au calcul de l’indicateur

Dans ce cas concernant les installations des points d’eau au Mali, obtenir des informations à partir des données commence par la détermination de quelle information est importante à partager. Dans cette optique, en collaboration avec la DNH (Direction Nationale Hydraulique Mali), la SNV et l’UNICEF, nous avons organisé une session pour déterminer les indicateurs les plus importants à partager en ligne. Nous avons choisi ce qui suit:

  • Taux de fonctionnalité: Rapport entre le nombre de points d’eau fonctionnels et le nombre total de points d’eau (un point d’eau est considéré comme fonctionnel s’il fournit de l’eau à la communauté pendant 9 mois sur 12).
  • Taux d’accès: Le pourcentage de la population d’une localité ayant accès à l’eau potable.
  • Taux d’équipement: Le pourcentage de la population ayant accès à l’Équivalent d’un Point d’Eau Moderne (EPEM).

Des indicateurs à la visualisation

Pour le calcul des indicateurs, nous avions besoin de données provenant de différentes sources. Nous avons utilisé des données nettoyées de la plateforme Akvo Flow qui fournissaient des informations détaillées sur 40 000 installations d’approvisionnement en eau, des données d’Instat-Mali sur les unités administratives et de la population, et des données provenant de la base de données du ministère. L’étape suivante a consisté à combiner ces différentes sources de données et à créer des formules afin de calculer chaque indicateur. Pour pouvoir afficher ces indicateurs en ligne et mettre fréquemment à jour les données, nous avons décidé de les stocker en ligne dans un fichier Google.

Ci-dessus: Cadre de visualisation des données montrant le processus, de la source de données à la visualisation. Simulation effectuée par Lars Heemskerk.

Partage d’informations en ligne


Une fois les indicateurs des données prêts, l’étape suivante consistait à prendre une décision concernant la meilleure façon de les afficher sur le site Web. Alors, nous avons décidé d’afficher des informations sur chaque indicateur à quatre niveaux: par région, par sous-région, par communauté et par village. De la sorte, les utilisateurs peuvent eux-mêmes décider du niveau d’information qui leur est utile. Les tableaux des données au niveau de la communauté et du village permettent aux utilisateurs de filtrer les données et de les télécharger au format Excel ou CSV. Les graphiques affichés sous ces tableaux suivent automatiquement le filtrage et présentent les données en conséquence. Nous avons principalement utilisé des tableaux à colonnes pour communiquer l’information de façon claire et efficace. Ce type de graphique est l’une des options les plus familières car il facilite l’interprétation lors de la comparaison des données. Nous avons également créé des cartes interactives qui présentent les indicateurs des différentes installations d’approvisionnement en eau à leurs emplacements exacts. Nous avons ajouté des couches riches en données aux cartes, comme celles des frontières administratives soutenues par des ensembles de données externes, qui sont disponibles pour téléchargement sur le compte Carto de la DNH. water atlas mali
Ci-dessus: Une capture d’écran de l’atlas de l’eau du Mali en ligne montrant l’état des installations d’eau dans la région de Kayes.

L’avenir des données sur les points d’eau au Mali


En sélectionnant les principaux indicateurs et en les affichant en ligne, nous avons réussi à rassembler un grand nombre d’informations dans un emplacement central en ligne. La création de l’Atlas malien des points d’eau  du Mali est un pas de plus vers l’accès à l’eau et l’assainissement durables pour tous, objectif de développement durable 6 (ODD 6). Il aide le ministère à suivre efficacement les infrastructures WASH et à mieux comprendre la durabilité des points d’eau au Mali. Plus nous avons des données disponibles sur ce portail et sur des portails similaires, plus nous pourrons progresser dans l’atteinte de l’ODD 6. Depuis que nous avons dispensé la formation à quatre membres de la DNH, ils sont maintenant en mesure de mettre à jour le site Web dès que de nouvelles données sont disponibles.

Êtes-vous intéressé à saisir, à interpréter et à partager des données de façon ouverte? Contactez-nous, nous pouvons vous aider.

Lars Heemskerk est chargé de la communication et des projets en Afrique de l’Ouest. Il est basé à Bamako au Mali. Vous pouvez le suivre sur Twitter @larsheemskerk

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The interactive story of water supply facilities in Mali https://akvo.org/blog/the-interactive-story-of-water-supply-facilities-in-mali/ https://akvo.org/blog/the-interactive-story-of-water-supply-facilities-in-mali/#respond Mon, 28 May 2018 06:11:30 +0000 https://akvo.org/?p=35581 Above: Data collector Halidou Kamaté makes an inventory of a water points in the Bla Cercle of the Segou Region,... Read more

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Above: Data collector Halidou Kamaté makes an inventory of a water points in the Bla Cercle of the Segou Region, Mali. Photo by Birama Sangaré.

With the launch of Mali’s online water atlas, anyone with Internet access can now find out the status of water supply facilities in Mali. For the first time, people can interact with and investigate water facilities in the country, including detailed background information on location, status and the local population. Featuring data collected between 2016 and 2018 by the Malian national inventory of water point data, the water portal combines different data sources into comprehensible indicators. This allows visitors to filter relevant tables, render real-time graphs and browse interactive maps. This water portal is a crucial step towards effective monitoring of water facilities in Mali, and provides the ministry and the public with useful insights for decision making on sustainable water infrastructure. In this blog, we describe the various steps required to go from raw data to insightful information sharing. 

From raw data to indicator


Gaining insights from data starts by figuring out what information is important to share, in this case concerning water point facilities in Mali. Together with the DNH (Direction Nationale Hydraulique Mali), SNV and UNICEF, we organised a session to determine the most important indicators to share online. We chose the following:

  • Taux de fonctionalité: The ratio between the number of functional water points and the total number of water points (a water point is considered functional if a water point provides water to the community for 9 out of 12 months).
  • Taux d’acces: The percentage of the population of a locality with access to drinking water.
  • Taux d’equipement: The ratio between the percentage of the population having access to an Equivalent of a Modern Water Point (EPEM).
  • Access par technique: The percentage of the population with access to the different water point systems, Borne Fontaine (BF), Point d’Eau Moderne PEM, or Système Alimentation en Eau Potable SAEP.

From indicator to visualisation


To calculate those indicators, we needed data from different sources. We used clean data from 
Akvo Flow which provided detailed information on 40,000 water supply facilities, Instat-Mali data for population and administrative units, and data from the database of the ministry itself. The next step was to combine these different data sources and create formulas to calculate each indicator. To be able to display these indicators online and update the data frequently, we decided to store them online in a Google spreadsheet.

Above: Data visualisation framework showing the process from datasource to visualisation, by Lars Heemskerk.

Sharing information online


Having the data indicators ready, the next step was to make a decision regarding the best way of displaying them on the website. We decided to display information on every indicator at four levels: per region, per sub-region, per community and per village. This way, the user themselves can decide the level of information that is useful for them. The data tables at community and village level allow users to filter the data and download it in excel or CSV format. The charts displayed below those tables automatically follow the filtering and visualise the data accordingly. We mainly used column charts to communicate the information clearly and efficiently. This type of chart is one of the more familiar options as it is easy to interpret when comparing data. We also created interactive maps that visualise the indicators at the exact location of the different water supply facilities. We have added data-rich layers to the maps like administrative borders supported by external datasets, which are available for download at the DNH Carto account.

water atlas mali
Above: A screenshot from Mali’s online water atlas showing the status of water facilities in the Kayes region.

The future of water point data in Mali

By selecting the main indicators and displaying them online, we managed to pack a large amount of information into a central online location. The establishment of the Malian Atlas of water point facilities in Mali is another step towards sustainable water and sanitation for all development goal six (SDG 6) because it helps the ministry effectively monitor WASH infrastructure and gain insights about the sustainability of water points in Mali. The more data we have available on this portal, and indeed other similar portals, the more progress we’ll be able to make to SDG 6. Since we’ve trained four members of the DNH, they are now able to update the website as soon as new data is available.

Are you interested in capturing, understanding and sharing data openly? Get in touch with us, we can help.

Lars Heemskerk is communications and project manager in West Africa, based in Bamako, Mali. You can follow him on Twitter @larsheemskerk.

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La tendencia en el Foro Mundial del Agua: Innovación Digital y Justicia Ambiental https://akvo.org/blog/la-tendencia-en-el-foro-mundial-del-agua-innovacion-digital-y-justicia-ambiental/ https://akvo.org/blog/la-tendencia-en-el-foro-mundial-del-agua-innovacion-digital-y-justicia-ambiental/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 15:15:05 +0000 https://akvo.org/?p=35258 Arriba: Nuevos amigos y contactos después del Foro Mundial del Agua 2018 en Brasilia.Llegando en la madrugada a Brasilia, me amaneció... Read more

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Arriba: Nuevos amigos y contactos después del Foro Mundial del Agua 2018 en Brasilia.
Llegando en la madrugada a Brasilia, me amaneció cuando sonaron fuertes golpes en la puerta de mi habitación. Fuertes! Y luego una voz: “Carlos, vienes a la inauguración del Foro Mundial del Agua?” El llamado de mi buen colega de Akvo, Bert Diphoorn. Así lo conocí, dando la aireada primera llamada para comenzar una gran semana de contactos con entidades nacionales, internacionales, de gobierno y organizaciones civiles presentes en el evento de mayor trascendencia en materia de agua a nivel mundial. Una semana cargada de sabor carioca, sonrisas y una muy buena energía.

Ese día, el Lunes 18 de Marzo, inició el Foro Mundial del Agua 2018. Además de las cinco sesiones en las que participaría Akvo, teníamos nuestro espacio en el Pabellón Holandés para contar la experiencia que hemos acumulado en la última década. Una vitrina para buscar replicar los casos de éxito en Latinoamérica.


Akvo en el Foro
  

Akvo busca participar de estos espacios internacionales y participar en paneles para hablar y marcar la tendencia en innovación digital en proyectos relacionados al agua:

Sesión 7.A.2 – Compartir innovaciones tecnológicas, sociales y financieras

La sesión buscaba responder cómo se pueden llevar a escala las innovaciones digitales en monitoreo de proyectos de agua, y cómo se pueden replicar aún más las innovaciones a gran escala en otras geografías del mundo. Durante esta sesión Akvo destacó algunas de las innovaciones más prometedoras que hemos desarrollado utilizando teléfonos celulares al igual que la importancia de estimular el intercambio de buenas prácticas, promover datos abiertos con responsabilidad, fortalecer de capacidades locales para manejar y utilizar datos, e impulsar el uso de softwares de código abierto.

Arriba: Ethel Mendez compartiendo innovaciones tecnológicas y sociales en monitoreo de agua para la toma de decisiones.

Sesión 8.C.1- Uso de tecnología de telefonía móvil, tecnología de sensores, teledetección, drones y modelado en el monitoreo y la gestión del agua

Existen muchas Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación (TICs) que benefician al sector de agua y saneamiento y aumentan la capacidad de los administradores del agua para administrar mejor el recurso. Esta sesión apuntó a presentar algunas de las innovaciones más prometedoras. Akvo contribuyó su experiencia utilizando dispositivos móviles para recolectar datos, medir la calidad del agua, y fortalecer capacidades en el uso de datos. Esta sesión tuvo una asistencia sin igual. Díez minutos antes de abrir las puertas del salón donde se llevaría a cabo había cerca de 400 personas esperando ingresar al salón, el cual tenía capacidad máxima para 30 personas. Ante tan grande grupo de personas, los organizadores cambiaron el salón y nos trasladaron a un gran auditorio que invito a más curiosos, especialistas y tomadores de decisiones locales e internacionales para conocer nuestra experiencia, herramientas y soluciones.

Arriba: Presentación de Ethel Mendez en el panel de Uso de la tecnología de telefonía móvil, tecnología de sensores, teledetección, drones y modelado en la supervisión y gestión del agua.

Sesión 8.C.3 – Código abierto y Big Data para la eficiencia en el uso del agua y la gestión sostenible

Esta sesión no sólo trató de abordar los desarrollos recientes en proyectos de código abierto y big data relevantes para el sector del agua, sino que también trató de mirar hacia el futuro de las TIC y hacer algunas reflexiones “fuera de la caja de agua”. Representantes de los servicios geológicos de Francia y Estados Unidos presentaron los servicios que ofrecen poniendo a disposición datos satelitales y modelos de análisis, mientras que otros panelistas presentaron ejemplos concretos sobre cómo están utilizando herramientas de código abierto, sus ventajas y limitantes. Akvo cerró el panel haciendo una reflexión sobre la importancia que tienen los datos abiertos y herramientas de código abierto en reducir asimetrías de información y poder avanzar hacia la democratización en el uso de información para la toma de decisiones.

Sesión Especial – Monitoreo del Agua: Instrumentos y mecanismos para el monitoreo participativo de la calidad del agua en zonas rurales y peri-urbanas

Aquí presentamos los avances de Akvo en materia de innovación digital y monitoreo en los proyectos que buscan tener un impacto en el bienestar de la población y los proyectos en materia del agua. Hablamos de cómo nuestra solución ha podido ser escalable gracias al involucramiento de la sociedad civil, la funcionalidad con celulares Android y la facilidad de recolección de información sin internet, mientras accede luego a una fuente de internet o wi-fi. Estuvimos también conversando sobre los nuevos retos: ¿qué hacer con estos datos? Una opción es crear gráficas, visualizar los datos y comunicarlos de tal manera que ayudemos a nuestros aliados a entablar un diálogo abierto y transparente para dar a entender el impacto que desean realizar o están realizando mediante sus acciones con Akvo.

Sesión Informal: De Datos a Decisiones

El pabellón holandés sirvió de escenario para compartir la experiencia de Akvo en capturar y comprender de manera más eficiente los datos del agua. Utilizando ejemplos de países de África occidental y de la India, presentamos el proceso que Akvo facilita desde el momento en que se identifica la necesidad de información hasta el momento en que se toman decisiones con base a los datos que ayudamos a generar. Este espacio dedicado para destacar nuestro trabajo permitió que demostráramos al público las aplicaciones de Flow y Caddisfly y que ellos interactuaran directamente con los softwares.   

Temas destacados durante el Foro

Hubo dos temas que me llamaron la atención desde el primer día del foro: Se demandaba por un lado que los paneles tuvieran mayor audiencia de mujeres lo cual no se vio por ejemplo en la ceremonia de inauguración donde todos los involucrados fueron hombres, y por otra, que el agua dejará de ser una mercancía y que los estados sean los llamados a ser mejores gerentes del agua. Sobre este último asunto, cabe resaltar la declaración realizada por Jueces de diferentes países asistentes al Foro que sentaron jurisprudencia en justicia del agua con 10 principios fundamentales, de los cuales me gustaría destacar los siguientes aspectos:

  1. El agua es un bien de interés público y por esto mismo es sujeto de derechos, donde éste puede acceder a la justicia en materia del uso de su tierra y tener una función sostenible y ecológica de su propiedad. Y en los casos de contaminación, la declaración es muy clara para motivar a legisladores y juristas a nivel mundial “el contaminador del agua debe pagar, así como el usuario paga por el servicio domestico”.
  2. Sobre la resolución de disputas relacionadas con el agua y cuando exista incertidumbre sobre el agua y ecosistemas ante los tribunales, se debe resolver e interpretar leyes de manera que protejan y conserven mejor los recursos y ecosistemas.
  3. Por último, el buen gobierno del agua es parte de la prevención y precaución con la administración agua. Por esto es un asunto de interés público. 

Todo esto en el contexto de un consumo global de agua que está creciendo al doble cada 20 años, y que para el 2025, al menos dos tercios de la población mundial vivirá en zonas afectadas por estrés hídrico. Un antecedente para que nosotros y aquellos tomadores de decisiones a futuro, tengan claro que el agua debe ser limpia y hoy es un recurso limitado, donde cada año existe mayor demanda y pocas fuentes de agua dulce.

Hoy continuamos bajo la misma línea de la Resolución 64/292 (2010) de la Asamblea General de Naciones Unidas donde se reconoció explícitamente el derecho humano al agua y al saneamiento, admitiendo el agua potable y el saneamiento como elementos esenciales para la realización de todos los derechos humanos. Si bien la Resolución instó a los Estados y organizaciones internacionales a proporcionar recursos financieros, ayudar a la creación de capacidad y la transferencia de tecnología para ayudar a los países, en particular a los países en desarrollo, a proporcionar agua potable y servicios de saneamiento seguros, limpios, accesibles y asequibles para todos; actualmente la perspectiva sobre el agua busca pasar de ser un simple recurso hídrico a una elemento vital con perspectiva de derechos, sujeto de una justicia ética. Es posible que podamos mejorar en Latinoamérica la visión de cómo es nuestra relación con el agua y su entorno. Es una apuesta al cumplimiento de los ODS al 2030 que todos los países se comprometen a pesar que los huecos entre lo que hacemos y deberíamos estar haciendo es grande. Sobretodo cuando conocemos que la alta presión sobre los nacimientos, los desechos y agua sucias, son mayores que los recursos disponibles para consumo y uso de los seres humanos. 

Arriba: Ethel Mendez y Carlos Díaz en el Pabellón de Holanda presentando la alianza de Watershed.

Hay múltiples necesidades alrededor de la conservación de bosques, y por ende de las fuentes de agua. En todo este ecosistema, hay un balance por preservar. Hay reflexiones que giran alrededor de cómo el ser humano con su urbanización se siente por encima del medio ambiente, cuando debería pensar más que es parte del medio ambiente. Nuestro bienestar socioeconómico depende fuertemente de los entornos del agua casi hasta el punto donde el agua es un asunto de vida o muerte para futuras generaciones. Y es que, ¿cuál es el elemento que busca la humanidad en otros planetas dentro de una de tantas galaxias? Y antes de poder administrar y hacer buen uso de esta, nos vemos en el dilema de pensar que ¿Cómo entender algo, que no medimos adecuadamente? Si deseas saber mas de cómo medir datos en proyectos de desarrollo sostenible, contáctanos.

Carlos Díaz es Gerente de Programa para Akvo Americas. Puedes seguirlo en Twitter @pochodiaz.

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Simplicity and security go hand in hand https://akvo.org/blog/simplicity-security-akvo-flow/ https://akvo.org/blog/simplicity-security-akvo-flow/#respond Tue, 01 May 2018 09:43:53 +0000 https://akvo.org/?p=35180 Above: Cycling in the Netherlands. Photo by Jana Gombitova. 01 May 2018.Cycling is so popular in the Netherlands that we cycle... Read more

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cycling in the netherlands

Above: Cycling in the Netherlands. Photo by Jana Gombitova. 01 May 2018.

Cycling is so popular in the Netherlands that we cycle even the shortest distances. It’s simple – you hop on your bike and go. Besides, the infrastructure of the city is designed first and foremost for bicycles, and the dedicated bike lanes ensure that you’re always shielded from other traffic. In my hometown in Slovakia, I didn’t cycle often. It might be as simple, but the lack of infrastructure for bicycles means that it’s less safe. In the Netherlands, the constant investment in design solutions for the safety of cyclists means that riding a bike is as secure as it is easy.

In the Flow team, we follow a similar approach. We want data collection with Akvo Flow to be as secure as it is simple. We are always working to simplify Flow so that data collection is as easy as riding a bicycle. This year, we’ve made data security our priority so that we can support you in putting your responsible data practices in place. We are building up and strengthening our bike lanes.

Why are simplicity and security so important to us? 

With Akvo Flow, we aim to revamp the cumbersome process of manual data collection by giving you a tool that not only improves data accuracy, but helps you collect any type of data, anywhere, at any scale. For Flow to be valuable, it has to address the complexities you face. But would you choose Flow if it was too complicated to use? For it to be usable, not only are we giving you all the tools you need to capture data, we are simplifying Flow to make your experience seamless and your data collection effective.  

The data you capture is often about people. We believe that data security goes hand in hand with personal security. Thus, ensuring the safety of your personal data and the data you capture with Flow is at the core of our work. Furthermore, GDPR – the General Data Protection Regulation – is the new EU law that introduces new requirements for how organisations deal with personal data. We are working on ensuring compliance with this new legislation.

How are we bringing simple and secure together?

We make Flow a responsible data collection tool by ensuring data is safe at all times. Besides the policies we already have in place, we are improving how we store your captured data on the app by moving all your data into a private folder. This means that your data is not accessible just by opening the data folder on your device, while still enabling you to collect data offline. We will also move downloading data away from emails to Flow’s online workspace to give you better control of how you share your data.

Data security also means that only those with access to data can see and work with the data. In Flow’s online workspace, you can assign and fully customise your user roles. We are now making sure those are respected when viewing data on the map as well. Moreover, we have updated our policy on how Akvo staff support you in using Flow.

Capturing data in a responsible way also means only collecting what you need. We’ve already reduced the information we use to identify your Flow app devices and are cleaning up our database to remove any unneeded data. Besides, reducing to the valuable minimum is a guiding principle on making things simpler. We are simplifying how you use Flow by bringing all the data related tasks under the Data tab in your Flow online workspace and by giving you direct feedback within the page (when your question name is missing before you hit save, or your bulk upload is completed successfully). This results in fewer clicks, more insights and a simpler experience.

simple and secure with Akvo Flow

Above: A gif illustrating the simple and secure bulk upload data function in Akvo Flow. 

We can only improve Flow with your input and by working together. With your feedback, we learned about your concerns about user access and your confusion regarding the structure of Flow’s online workspace. With user research, we simplified the upcoming changes to how you download data. Together, we can bring responsible data principles to the core of our work and ensure that data collection is as simple as riding a bike.

We have many valuable changes coming your way. When we release improvements to your Flow online workspace, it gets automatically updated, but the Flow app you need to update yourself. Always update your Flow app and bring simple and responsible to the core of your data collection with Flow.

Are you interested in helping us test the upcoming changes? Do you have other concerns regarding responsible data? Get in touch and take this bike ride together.

Jana Gombitova is the product manager for Akvo Flow. You can follow her on Twitter @janagombitova.

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