cardnomap_july2013 We are just past the halfway point in 2013, and so it’s time for a mid-year update on what the Akvo FLOW team has rolled out to partners this year in the way of new features and enhancements.
Above: Map of FLOW points collected in Indonesia.
Akvo FLOW 1.5.0
Our big news this year was of course the release and roll-out of FLOW 1.5. This was Akvo’s first major release of the FLOW project following the transition from Water For People.

FLOW 1.5 was all about rethinking and revamping the user experience and user interface of the FLOW Dashboard. We reorganized the main FLOW tasks into a set of intuitive tabs that reflect the natural sequence of the core workflow of a Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) tool – design your survey, send it to devices, and check out the data that comes in from the field through a live data feed, data reports, and map views. Of course we added a lot of smaller features in there to make FLOW easier to use in other ways, especially around managing the fleet of devices associated with your dashboard.

Above: The new devices view in Akvo FLOW 1.5.

As a final touch on FLOW 1.5, our big project was getting rid of the client-side Java applets that used to launch when users ran reports or imported data. This way of running reports put a big burden on the user’s machine, and then at the end of 2012 the security concerns around Java really became untenable. So we replaced the applets with a new service that runs the reports elsewhere and serves them up to users via their web browser when they are ready. We increased both speed and capacity of data import and export with this move. And trimmed an independent download from the list for our partners and trainers getting set up to use FLOW in the field. Big win for everyone.

We also released the Field Survey app several times in this period to improve how the device handles and transmits field photos, how the device reports its ID numbers and Android operating system version to the server, and warns users when the SD card is getting close to full and would stop accepting new data and surveys. Check out the release notes on Github for details.

Akvo FLOW 1.5.1
At the beginning of July, we released the FLOW Dashboard version 1.5.1, which was a series of enhancements to a few key areas of the software that hadn’t been working quite right. We fixed a number of bugs and defects that affected how data were counted and summarized when they came in from devices or data import, so that survey results are now displayed more accurately in Chart Builder and in data reports. We also improved the performance and usability of the Inspect Data table and the Bulk Upload tool, enabled security on the REST APIs that allow the dashboard front-end and Google App Engine back-end to talk to each other, and made a number of other small improvements, all of which are outlined in detail attached to Github issue numbers in our release notes.

Stay tuned for our next release (1.6), which will contain some pretty exciting features related to survey translations and languages, a big need for our partner network all over the world, as well as an update on what FLOW’s got on tap for the rest of the year.

By the way, starting with FLOW 1.5.1, we’ve started using the nifty Github releases feature to organize FLOW software releases, so it’ll be easier to see the code and commits associated with each new release. And our release notes for the FLOW Dashboard and Field Survey app are always available as well.

Growth in 2013
Alongside these new software releases, over the first half of 2013 we saw big increases in the number of organizations using FLOW, the volume of points collected by our partners, and the geographical spread of our FLOW partner network. Akvo is running and supporting 25 FLOW Dashboards today, up from 10 at the end of 2012. Our partner network is using these dashboards and the accompanying Field Survey app to collect data in 27 countries in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Middle East. We are using FLOW for first time in the Middle East (in Jordan), and at the same time deepening our involvement in West Africa, East Africa and Southeast Asia. Caetie Ofiesh is product manager for Akvo FLOW.