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Based on exactly the same (open) system as Wikipedia, the Akvopedia‘s purpose it to gather and share knowledge about low-cost, appropriate technologies that can provide water and sanitation quickly to the world’s poor. It’s about building what Jeroen van der Sommen calls “a shared hydrological memory“.

Photo: Mark Westra takes Nicole van Zurk from Akvo partner Simavi through Akvo’s online tools. International Water House, The Hague, Netherlands. 3 June 2009.

Akvo started up on the UNESCO-IHE campus in Delft – a centre for water education – and we’re now in the International Water House in The Hague, where we share space with some of the most important water knowledge institutions. The people passing through these environments have influenced our approach intensely – experts in appropriate technologies such as Henk Holtslag, one of the world’s leading experts in the field – who argues that there’s a major lack of knowledge about the options available, many of which have only been developed in the last ten years.

In the video below, Mark Tiele Westra, the Akvopedia editor who has worked closely alongside Henk himself, describes who Akvopedia is designed for, and explains a little about how it’s structured so anyone can edit the information.

Although it’s fully accessible to anyone, Akvopedia (see it here) is not designed for the general public – nor is it designed for the end user of a technology in the field. “It’s for people that work with water and sanitation options. Also the Unicefs and other large organisations, who may never have thought a particular technology was an option.”

Mark also explains how we’re connecting Akvopedia to Akvo Really Simple Reporting, which is building a database of report streams from community-level water and sanitation projects across the developing world.

Connecting knowledge to real projects

“It should also provide a context for the projects. So in Akvo RSR there will be links to details in Akvopedia of the technologies, but it will also work the other way round – so in Akvopedia, there are links to real projects that have used that technology.”

“It’s a very different thing if you see a study of a technology used somewhere, or if you see actual projects, with people trying to use this technology and talking about their experiences.”

We’re really excited about the potential to bring the technologies to life through this closer link between the static knowledge-base and real projects happening at the time. “You can get a much better feeling for a technology. It’s a very different thing if you see a study of a technology used somewhere, or if you see actual projects, with people trying to use this technology and talking about their experiences. That way you get a much better feel for if it could work for you as well.”

So who is the target user for Akvopedia?

“It’s NGOs – people that work in the water and sanitation sector. And those that want to work in this sector. Because what you see is many NGOs who started in one direction – education or health – also take up water and sanitation.”

Mark Charmer is a co-founder of Akvo.