Akvo Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

About Akvo

What does Akvo do?

Akvo builds open source internet and mobile software which is used to make international development cooperation and aid activity more effective and transparent.

What does the word ‘Akvo’ mean?

Akvo means ‘water’ in the Esperanto language.

Who owns and runs Akvo?

Akvo is an international organisation with not-for-profit status at its headquarters in the Netherlands (ANBI) and in the United States (501(c)(3)) It is accountable to a board drawn from the technology, development organisations and banking sectors.

Akvo develops and operates its products under a unified service brand but comprises of a number of distinct organisational entities.

The Netherlands organisation is responsible for strategic direction, global partnerships and operating our online and mobile services. The United States organisation is responsible for direction of local operations and fundraising in the US. 

Who funds Akvo?

Akvo is financially self-sustaining non-profit foundation. Akvo’s software is built on a solid foundation of service revenues supplemented by strategic grant investments. Initially we received startup funds from a number of different partners including NWP, Partners voor Water, Nedap, Aqua4all, ASN Bank, Simavi, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Schoklandfonds, Rabobank and Unie van Waterschappen. We also received in-kind contributions from IRC, ProWeb and SIWI.

When was Akvo founded and by whom?

The Akvo Foundation, a non-profit foundation, was formally incorporated in September 2008, but work began in autumn 2006. Akvo was founded by the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) and several key individuals. People who played a key role at the start were Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson, Jeroen van der Sommen (then director of NWP), Peter van der Linde, Gino Lee, Mark Charmer, Gabriel von Heijne, Mark Nitzberg, Caroline Figuères, and Paul van Koppen.

Where does Akvo operate?

As well as it’s Amsterdam headquarters, Akvo has established hub offices in London, Washington DC, Nairobi and New Delhi. There are also individuals and clusters of Akvo team members working in numerous other countries around the world from Burkina Faso to Sweden and Indonesia. Akvo’s partners operate in many different parts of the world.

You can find out more about their work on the See it happen page.

Who are Akvo’s partners?

Akvo works with more than a thousand organisations around the world to help them bring their work online and report, monitor, evaluate and share it. 

Why do so many projects using Akvo’s tools focus on water and sanitation?

Akvo was conceived within the water and sanitation sector in late 2006 initially to share knowledge about water and sanitation project best practice. Investments in water and sanitation are a highly effective means of alleviating poverty.

In late 2010, we were happy to fulfill requests from our partners to extend our tools to support projects with other focus areas such as health, education, technology, agriculture and economic development. Today Akvo’s tools are used widely across all kinds of international development projects and programmes, but the large number of water and sanitation initiatives reflects our history and roots in the water sector.

Akvo activities and services

What services does Akvo offer?

Akvo currently provides three tools:

  1. Akvo RSR stands for Really Simple Reporting. It’s a web- and Android-based system that makes it easy for development aid teams to bring complex networks of projects online and share progress with everyone involved and interested.
  2. Akvo Flow is a mobile phone and online service that transforms field monitoring using Android smartphones.
  3. Akvopedia is a portal for online knowledge on smart, low-cost, sustainable water and sanitation technology and approaches.

How much do you charge for your products and services?

Take a look at our pricing for Akvo Flow and Akvo RSR, then contact our partner team for more information.

Isn’t Akvo diverting funds away from important project work?

Akvo’s goal is to make international development more efficient, effective and transparent. We aim to provide well-supported, high quality, continually evolving tools that are affordable and help our partners apply resources much more efficiently and intelligently. We run our software as a service for our partners at scale, so we can develop and support it at a lower cost than any partner could achieve if doing the same in-house. We use service revenues to build a highly motivated, self-sustaining organisation that our partners feel confident will be there for the long term. We continuously develop tools that are both useful and inspiring to our partners and ultimately help the entire development sector become more effective.

How many organisations use Akvo’s services?

More than one thousand organisations around the world currently use Akvo’s tools to report, publish, monitor and evaluate their work. You can find out more about what they’re doing on the See it happen page.

What does it mean that all the Akvo tools are open source?

Wikipedia defines open source software as “computer software with its source code made available and licensed with an open-source license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change and distribute the software for free to anyone and for any purpose. Open-source software is very often developed in a public, collaborative manner.”

At Akvo we believe that going the open route provides substantial benefits for organisations in the international development sector and more importantly, gives benefits to those that need them most – those we are trying to help. In general Akvo releases everything under open source, open content and open data licenses. Exceptions are made when the data potentially violates the privacy of the individual or household. Then it is only published in aggregated or anonymised form. Data that may expose the Akvo systems and services to security breaches is closed and kept private.

You can find out more about our open source philosophy in Thomas’ blog on the subject.

How can I use Akvo tools if my internet access and mobile signal are limited?

The tools have been designed to be used in situations where internet access and mobile signals may be intermittent or slow. For example, Akvo RSR allows project information to be entered in PDF forms, which can be filled in off-line, and be send to Akvo via email at a convenient time. Akvo Flow allows enumerators to gather and store data on their Android device even when they have no mobile signal. When they re-enter a signal zone, the data will automatically be uploaded to their Akvo Flow dashboard.

Questions about Akvo RSR

What is an Akvo RSR partner?

We refer to organisations that use our tools as our partners. In the case of Akvo RSR, partners are organisations that work with international development projects in one of the following ways:

  • Field partner – implements projects with local communities
  • Support partner – supports local organisations (field partners) with programme coordination, capacity building, knowledge transfer, monitoring, training, etc.

More information follows below about what these types of partnerships entail and the procedure for becoming a partner in each case. The criteria, roles and responsibilities, and procedures are listed in full on the Akvo partner rules page.

What is a Field partner?

Field partners implement the projects listed in Akvo RSR, in collaboration with the local community. Field partners should have an office local to where the project is taking place so that they can work with the community on an ongoing basis. For the full list of criteria, roles and responsibilities and the process to become a field partner, take a look at the Akvo partner rules page.

What is a support partner?

Akvo support partners are organisations that support field partners in different ways. They are responsible for approving the project plan and monitoring its implementation. They can supply knowledge, information, training, and contacts. They may also help with writing project plans, troubleshooting and building networks and connections. Support partners should be well-connected within their relevant field of international development. For the full list of criteria, roles and responsibilities and the process to become a support partner, take a look at the Akvo partner rules page.

Can a single organisation be both a field partner and a support partner?

This is not recommended. However, in some cases where large organisations with a long track have offices in multiple countries, a local office could function as the field partner, and the main office as the Support partner. An important criterion is that the partner has a local office where the project is carried out, because it needs to be able to work with the local community on an ongoing basis.

How are the responsibilities divided between Akvo and the different partner organisations?

Akvo RSR provides a stable and secure platform which is used by the partners to facilitate communication and reporting. 

Field partners are responsible for producing a good quality project plan, implementing their project(s) together with the local community, and for providing regular project updates and reporting information.

Support partners invite field partners to contribute projects. They back projects that they think are of good quality and where they can help by being involved. Support and field partners jointly post information about their projects on Akvo RSR. Support partners provide support and monitoring of project implementation.

How many partners can work together on a project?

In principle, many partners can work together on a project. There is no maximum number although a smaller number of partners is often more manageable. As a minimum, there should be one field partner and one support partner, except in certain special cases (see: “Can a single organisation be both a field partner and a support partner?” above).

How do I use Akvo RSR to report on projects?

You can use Akvo RSR to post pictures, text updates and short videos using a web interface or via the RSR Android app. You can also export template and custom reports and share your work via the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).

Who is responsible for entering project updates on RSR?

This can be decided between the field and support partners involved in each project or programme. Anyone who has an Akvo RSR account and whose organisation is associated with a particular project can make updates on that project. However in general, most updates should come from people implementing the project in the field.

How often should one make project updates?

You can make as many updates as you like to your projects, but as a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to provide an update around once every two weeks.

Who can comment on a project?

Anyone who has an RSR account can comment on all projects. The comments are shown on a separate section of the project page.

What happens if something goes wrong with my project?

If something goes wrong with your project, explain what went wrong, what was done to fix it, and what the outcome was. In such a case, the project should at least be a learning experience for others. For transparency, we never delete projects from the Akvo system.

Can I edit project information?

Yes. Field and support partners can edit project information.

Can I edit project updates?

After you post an update you have 15 minutes to edit out any errors or typos. After that, for reasons of transparency, the update cannot be edited.

What happens if I want to cancel an active project or programme?

Canceling a project is not a lightweight decision, especially if funds have been received from donors. Enter an update explaining why the project has been canceled so others can learn from your experience. For the sake of transparency and continued learning, projects are never removed from RSR even if they are cancelled. When you cancel an active project or programme, any related Akvo fees cease.

What happens if I want to stop using RSR?

You can stop using Akvo RSR for your projects or programmes at any time. However, for transparency, we never delete projects from the Akvo system.

Are projects deleted on Akvo RSR after they are completed?

No. In the interest of transparency and continued learning, projects on Akvo RSR are never removed.

How do I get a widget?

On each project page, there is a page tool called ‘Get widget’, which allows you to create the HTML embedding code for the widget, which you can then put in your own website. You can customise the colour and which projects you want to show.

How many people from my organisation can use Akvo RSR?

You can have as many user accounts as you want on the Akvo RSR system. Fees are charged per project, not per user.

Do I need to install software to use Akvo RSR?

No. You can simply access the Akvo website with a standard web browser. There, you can log in to Akvo RSR.

Who owns the information published via Akvo RSR?

The information in the Akvo RSR is owned by the originators, which are the partners involved in the project. Any reuse of project information such as project descriptions, background descriptions, photos and movies, is subject to the permission of the originator of the material. Akvo uses the data from projects in an aggregate form, such as the average duration of projects, average cost per person for water and sanitation systems, etc. We might pass that data on in an open format so others can use it as well. We may also highlight or link to project pages or updates in other materials either on- or offline.

You can find detailed terms of use here.

Can I keep some of my project data private on Akvo RSR?

At the moment, no. All the information is accessible to all. As we have received several requests to change this, we are reviewing the need for a private section.

How much does Akvo RSR cost?

Find out more about this on our pricing page.

Questions about Akvo Flow

When did Akvo develop Flow?

The first version of Akvo Flow was introduced in 2010 by US NGO Water For People. In 2012, Akvo and Water For People entered into an agreement for Akvo to further develop Flow with the ultimate goal to make it an open source tool that can be run as an online service that is user-friendly, well-supported and affordable. In 2013, we released Akvo Flow 1.5, which built on the original version of Flow but featured key enhancements to improve the core user experience and make it easier and quicker to deploy.

What types of data can you collect using Flow?

Teams of monitoring and project management staff have used Flow across development aid sectors to monitor water and sanitation points, health and education initiatives, food security and more. Data points related to the status of infrastructure – such as water points across entire regions or even countries – can be collected and monitored affordably.

What if a project team doesn’t have internet access?

Phones can store hundreds of surveys and data can be collected in areas where there is no mobile connection. Akvo Flow automatically transmits the data once a connection is detected, so the system can be used anywhere in the world.

How do you build capacity for Akvo Flow?

We think that in-person training is essential in the successful use of Akvo Flow. In our experience it greatly increases its success within an organisation, and will diminish the need for extensive ongoing support. Training packages are tailored to the needs of each organisation and the scope and duration of the monitoring programme and take place on-site wherever possible, depending on the availability of our trainers.

How can data from Akvo Flow be exported into other forms?

Staff in the field conduct surveys using the Flow field survey app on Android smartphones and send the data to databases hosted in the cloud. As data is collected, it uploads automatically to the programme dashboard so it can be made available and analysed in real time. Once data appears on the dashboard, large numbers of team members in numerous locations can produce reports in a number of formats ranging from Excel spreadsheets to maps, histograms and pie charts.

Can I keep my data on Akvo Flow private? Can I make it public?

Transparency is part of the DNA of Akvo. We believe that being open provides substantial benefits for organisations in the international development sector and, more importantly, gives benefits to those that need it the most. As such, our tools are designed to improve transparency in international development work.

Data collected using Akvo Flow is publicly accessible on a public map. However, we believe that privacy issues surrounding certain types of data – such as household level data, which could relate to the privacy of individuals – is equally important. Therefore, any data within Akvo systems that would compromise the security of the systems or would violate the privacy of individuals is not open.

You can find additional information about our approach to open data in this blog.

How much does Flow cost?

Find out more about this on our pricing page.

Questions about Akvopedia

What is Akvopedia?

Akvopedia is an open source water and sanitation resource that anyone can edit. It aims to improve water and sanitation projects through knowledge exchange on smart and affordable technical solutions and effective approaches.

How can I contribute to Akvopedia?

We use the same conventions as the well-known online resource Wikipedia, so adding and editing articles is quick and easy to learn. To get started, first create an Akvopedia user account using the Log in/create account link in the upper right corner of the Akvopedia home page. Then use this graphical guide to get started creating and editing articles. More detailed information about editing wiki articles can be found on the Akvopedia help pages. To get an edit account, send an email to winona [at] akvo.org

How does Akvo control the quality of the content?

Akvopedia draws on the combined knowledge of many water and sanitation experts from around the world. We actively engage experts to contribute new and check existing information. All changes to the Akvopedia are reviewed weekly by our Akvopedia editor.

What about other languages?

At the moment Akvopedia is only available in English. Having it available in more languages is one of our priorities, and we are currently figuring out the best way to handle translations.

Who owns the rights to the content on Akvopedia?

All the information on Akvopedia is published under an open source license, and reuse is permitted according to the terms in that license.