• Written by Mark Charmer
    18 March 2008

Today’s been quite a day. Here’s our formal press announcement. We’ll expand via the blog over the coming days.


Delft, Netherlands, 18 March 2008.

Prince Willem-Alexander and Jeroen van der Sommen, at the Akvo matchmaking table.


Open source water and sanitation development venture secures €535,000 grant investments

A group of eight investors led by Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), Partners for Water and UN-HABITAT has agreed to finance Akvo in a signing session in Rotterdam, Holland. This unique new water venture will reduce the cost and complexity of providing clean water and basic sanitation to the world’s poor through open source internet tools, methods and working practices. The agreements were made during Unicef’s World Water Day matchmaking event, hosted by Prince Willem-Alexander of Orange and the Mayor of Rotterdam, Ivo Opstelten.

The investment, comprising €425,000 of cash grants and €110,000 of in-kind support, will enable Akvo to develop its core product, extend its global network and complete arrangements for a further €1m loan. This is the second funding round for Akvo which was created in autumn 2006 and grew with €212,000 of seed investment from NWP and Partners for Water. New investors include Aqua 4 All, ASN Bank, IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, NEDAP, Union of Waterboards and Simavi.

Akvo has this month signed agreements with implementation partners in the developing world to support over 75 projects this year. These NGO partners are Women in Europe for a Common Future, Rain Foundation, NWP NGO Platform, International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD), WASTE, Simavi, Practica Foundation, AquaEst and FODRA. Other strategic partners include Acacia Institute, AT@Work, WESNET India, Arghyam, Rural Water Supply Network, Micro Water Facility and the Informal World Water Forum 4 Appropriate Technology Network.

Much is at stake. More than 1.1 billion people have no safe drinking water and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation around the world. Each year, as a result, 1.8 million children die of diarrheoea or other diseases and in sub-Saharan Africa alone $28.4 billion is lost in productivity and opportunity costs.

“It is a UN Millennium Development Goal to halve, by 2015, the number of people in the world who lack clean drinking water and basic sanitation,” explains Jeroen van der Sommen, board member of Akvo and managing director of the Netherlands Water Partnership. “We have just seven years to hit the goal, but experts agree we are far from reaching it with business as usual. Akvo is our response – it is designed to start small, but is built from the ground-up to scale big. Eventually we see very large amounts of investment, and massive collaboration networks, flowing through Akvo.”

“Today very little investment goes into smaller projects that provide water and sanitation because those who hold the purse strings find them too expensive to identify, work with and report on. We have listened to NGOs, project funders, development banks and others and are confident Akvo is the partner they need to break the deadlock,” said Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson, founder of Akvo. “Today is a great result for our team and all those who have supported us, in both the water and technology sectors. I hope it provides encouragement to those who seek investors for open source projects outside the mainstream IT industry.”

Akvo is developing three core components – a knowledge-sharing tool for the sector, called the Akvopedia; a matchmaking tool system to screen and fund projects more easily and cheaply; and a water and sanitation project reporting platform called Really Simple Reporting (RSR).

More on Akvo: www.akvo.org

Media enquiries:
Mark Charmer – mark@akvo.org / +44 7976 960739
Anna Norén – anna@akvo.org / +34664693092

Akvo photography of the Unicef session can be found here.

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Edit: Added exact numbers. – TBP