Akvo’s eleventh: getting ready for World Water Week 2017

by Alvaro de Salvo

At the end of this month, Akvo lands in Stockholm World Water Week (SWWW). From Sunday 27 August to Friday 1 September, you can find us at stand 23 on the 2nd floor of the main exhibition hall. 

This year will be Akvo’s eleventh (#Akvo11) year at this global event. Since our start back in 2006, we’ve grown to a team of over 90 people, providing tools and services in five different regions. Along the way we saw first hand how monitoring using mobile technology – once a novelty- became a more institutionalised practice within many organisations and governments. From where we stand today, it seems to us that our next big challenge will be around building people’s data skills and coordinating interdisciplinary teams in ways to ensure that collected data is now transformed, analysed and put to use for positive change, at a local level. This brings lots of challenges, opportunities and also some big questions to answer, rather quickly. We are eager to connect with you in Stockholm. Here’s an overview of some things we’ll be showing this year, some events you might want to attend and which of us you can meet during the week.

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Launching Akvo Lumen

by Nadia Gorchakova

If you were at World Water Week in Stockholm last year, you may have caught a preview of our new data transformation, analysis and visualisation platform, Akvo Lumen. This year we will be showing the live product.

This new tool represents a big step along the road towards our vision of a world where data enables transformative decisions for a more equitable and sustainable society. Lumen has been built by international development professionals, for international development professionals, because we feel everyone in the sector should be able to trust their data and use it effectively for the common good. And we’ve seen that often, organisations struggle to move from data collection to applying that information to improve their impact and outcomes. Lumen is designed to link up that loop.
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Africa Open Data Conference 2017

by Lars Heemskerk

Above: Is open data in Africa a buffet or à la carte? The essential feature of a buffet is that you can directly view and immediately select which dishes you want where with an à la carte approach, you have to choose and order separate items.
Photo: the roundtable dinner at African Open Data Conference 2017, by Lars Heemskerk.

The phenomenon of open data is sweeping across the globe and across Africa. Throughout the continent there are many initiatives to scale up the availability of data to hold leaders to account, make more informed decisions and demand better services. This sounds very promising, but can and do these open data initiatives really help civil society, private sector and academics in Africa to launch new ventures, analyse trends and solve complex problems? Last week I attended The Africa Open Data Conference in Accra, Ghana to discover the opportunities and challenges of open data in Africa. The theme for this second edition was open data for sustainable development. Here are my main highs and lows of the conference. Read More »

Akvo spins off environmental sensor organisation – FFEM

by Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson

In March 2013 I was introduced to Samuel Rajkumar by Amitangshu Acharya, who was then running Akvo’s South Asia hub. Sam and the rest of the team had come together to start an organisation, called Ternup, after they won the first prize in a hackathon in November 2011 for their water quality sensor-prototypes.

What led up to this was Sam asking several team members of the NGO Arghyam how the hackathon team could best contribute to better water quality in India. Ayan Biswas, who then worked with Arghyam and now works with Akvo, had suggested they create a low-cost device that can detect fluoride in water. Consuming too much fluoride can cause fluorosis, a dental and sometimes crippling skeletal ailment. The fluoride generally originates from ground water used for drinking water or to irrigate food crops. It is estimated that up to two hundred million people worldwide are under threat from fluorosis.

During 2013 Akvo supported Ternup with advice on how to set up and run an open source non-profit organisation. In January 2014, Akvo and the Ternup team decided to join forces to create a water quality monitoring system consisting of sensors, the Akvo software platform and our partner support services. Most of the Ternup team members joined Akvo and created the Akvo Caddisfly R&D laboratory in Bangalore. This work was supported early on by Aqua for All and later on also by SNV (PDF) and ICCO.

Achievements

Since then we have together created the Akvo Caddisfly water quality testing system. This is a combination of an Android phone and simple devices that can:
  • recognise and classify strip tests (available)
  • connect to external sensors for electric conductivity and temperature (available)
  • detect fluoride, residual chlorine and other chemicals using a colorimetric device (available, depending on region)
  • detect and analyse nutrient levels in soil samples using strip tests (in pilot testing).
If you are interested in any of the above tests, please contact your local Akvo hub office

Above: Caddisfly with strip tests, electric conductivity sensor prototype and colorimetric chemical pollution detection.

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La journée des partenaires de Akvo au Burkina Faso

by Wendemi Ilboudo

Ci-dessus: une vue d’ensemble des participants qui étaient présents à cette journée. Photo prise par Wendemi Ilboudo.
Chez Akvo, un partenaire de mise en oeuvre de programme est un trésor que nous entretenons et gardons jalousement. Nos partenaires sont au coeur de toutes nos actions et pour le leur prouver, nous leur consacrons une journée afin de leur permettre d’exprimer leurs pensées ainsi que leurs attentes. Pour l’occasion, nous associons également des potentiels partenaires qui apprennent des expériences de nos collaborateurs.

C’est dans ce sens que nous avons fusionné nos énergies pour l’organisation de cette journée dédiée à ceux pour qui nous existons. Le jour J arriva, le 31 mars 2017, nous nous retrouvâmes dans la salle de conférence de l’agence nationale de la météorologie de Ouagadougou pour participer à « La Journée des Partenaires ».

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15 leçons à retenir pour votre sécurité

by Wendemi Ilboudo

Ci-dessus: un essai pratique pendant la formation initiale sur la sécurité lors du Team Week 2017. Photo prise par Wendemi Ilboudo.
Akvo emploie une centaine de personnes à travers le monde et elle a des bureaux aux quatre coins du monde. Son personnel voyage régulièrement dans de nombreux pays afin d’assister les partenaires locaux qui demandent leur appui. Consciente des risques d’attaques qui pourraient survenir lors de l’exercice de leurs fonctions, Akvo oeuvre à créer un environnement de travail sain et sauf pour ses employé-e-s. .

C’est dans ce cadre que les membres de son équipe en Afrique de l’Ouest ont bénéficié d’une session de formation sur les aspects basiques de la sécurité. Cette formation s’est tenue en marge du Team Week du Hub qui a eu lieu en avril 2017. J’y ai participé et j’ai appris de bonnes leçons et très essentielles.

Pendant deux heures de temps, notre coach Emmanuel Kolingba, a tenté de nous inculquer des réflexes à mémoriser et/ou à éviter lorsque l’on se retrouverait dans un milieu hostile. Notre initiation s’est faite en trois phases : la théorie, la phase de démonstration et des exercices pratiques. Comme c’est surprenant de savoir qu’il y a des réflexes simples auxquels l’on ne pense pas. Avec Emmanuel, j’ai appris 15 leçons qui peuvent servir à tous sans distinction d’âge, de sexe ni de forme. Elles peuvent vous être utiles pendant votre vie de tous les jours, durant un voyage ou lorsque vous êtes à l’étranger.
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Gates Foundation awards Akvo grant to help fight malaria

by Mark Tiele Westra

Akvo has been awarded a 100k USD grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The award forms part of round 18 of the Foundation’s Global Grand Challenges funding programme aimed at designing new solutions to data integration for malaria elimination. We will work to create a user-focussed malaria data integration and visualisation system, based on our new Akvo Lumen platform. 

Malaria

Malaria is a disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to humans by the Anopheles mosquitos. In areas affected by malaria, children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable. In Africa, the disease kills one child in twenty before the age of five. Malaria is, however, preventable and curable using extremely cost-effective treatments and control measures. During the period 2000-2015, due to a ten-fold increase in funding for combatting malaria, its occurrence rate was reduced by 37%, and its mortality rate dropped by 60%: an enormous success [1]. This was accomplished by the wide-scale use of malaria control interventions, such as bed nets, indoor insecticide spraying, and treatment.  Read More »

Monitoring Geodata for Agriculture and Water programmes

by Peter van der Linde

Enumerators from the Community Development Center (CDC) collecting baseline field data with their smartphone using Akvo Flow. Photo by CDC. May 2017

Since the end of last year, our regional Akvo team in South East Asia and Pacific has joined two exciting new consortia programmes, GREENcoffee (Vietnam) and SMARTseeds (Indonesia). Both programmes aim to create self-sustainable information services that reach 100,000 farmers, with an end-goal to increase production and income of farmers by 10%, and reduce inputs such as water, fertilisers and pesticides by 10% as well.

Akvo provides the technology to collect farmer information, provides innovative solutions for soil testing, and the ability to validate remote sensing models on the ground. We also support the lead agent, ICCO, in smartphone-based project monitoring and evaluation. In this blog we lay out the planning, monitoring and evaluation (PME) approach for the farmer baseline, using the GREENcoffee programme as an example.
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Suivi des données Géolocalisées pour des programmes d’eau et d’agriculture

by Wendemi Ilboudo

Des enquêteurs du Centre communautaire de développement (CDC) collectent des données de base sur le terrain avec leur smartphone à l’aide d’Akvo Flow. Photo prise par CDC. Mai 2017
Depuis la fin de l’année dernière, notre équipe régionale de Akvo en Asie du Sud-Est et du Pacifique a rejoint deux nouveaux consortiums de programmes passionnants. Ce sont : GREENcoffee (au Vietnam) et SMARTseeds (Indonésie). Les deux programmes visent à créer des services d’informations auto-durables qui atteindront 100 000 agriculteurs, avec un objectif final de taux de croissance de 10% de la production et des revenus des agriculteurs ainsi qu’une réduction de 10% sur l’utilisation des intrants tels que l’eau, les engrais et les pesticides.
Akvo offre la technologie pour collecter les informations des agriculteurs, elle offre des solutions innovantes pour le test de la qualité du sol et la possibilité de valider les modèles de télédétection sur le sol. Nous soutenons également leprincipal partenaire, ICCO, dans le suivi et l’évaluation des projets basés sur l’utilisation de smartphones. Dans ce blog, nous suggérons l’approche de planification, de suivi et d’évaluation (PME) pour les agriculteurs de premier rang, en utilisant comme illustration le programme GREENcoffee.  L’initiative GREENcoffee vise les petits exploitants de café dans les provinces de Dak Lak, Gia Lai, Dak Nong et Lam Dong, où vivent 80% des producteurs de café. Une base de référence pour le projet Green Coffee devait être établie afin que l’impact du projet puisse être mesuré au fil du temps. Ce sont les étapes spécifiques soutenues par Akvo qui donnent un aperçu de l’approche de la collecte des données sur le terrain:

1. Sur la base des ensembles de données existants
Notre partenaire UTZ du consortium avait déjà rassemblé dans une base de données environ 6 000 producteurs clés des entreprises de café avec lesquelles il collabore dans la région. La base de données contenait des détails basiques mais qui ont été répartis sur un certain nombre de feuilles de calcul et disponibles dans différents formats. Akvo a aidé à les transformer dans un format standardisé et les données ont ensuite été cartographiées pour identifier la répartition des agriculteurs.


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What we talk about when we talk about data science

by Karolina Sarna

For ten years, Akvo has been building up a portfolio of tools and services to help organisations in the international development and national governments to get better at capturing, understanding and sharing data in order to make better decisions and take better actions.

To date, we’ve helped hundreds of organisations and a dozen national governments to capture over four million data points and implement numerous programmes. Along all these years, and following up on multiple ventures with our partners, it became apparent that many organisations still struggle to make the most out of the data they collect. It is still much easier to collect data than to discover knowledge.

Above: One of my favorite quotes. Very actual in 2017! Graphic by @lindadutches.

I joined Akvo just over nine months ago with one concrete aim: to set up the pillars of Akvo’s first data science team. Data Science will be a service that in combination with Akvo tools will help our partners make sense of their data, and act upon it. So far I’ve been connecting with a handful of partners both in water and sanitation and agriculture, exploring together how they can make better use of the datasets they’ve collected with Akvo Flow.

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