• Written by Luuk Diphoorn
    16 August 2012

Two weeks ago Amitangshu Acharya, who’s leading Akvo’s operations into South Asia and is based in New Delhi, arrived here in Nairobi for two packed weeks of activity. Since I just started Akvo’s operations here in East Africa four months ago, we felt this would be a good opportunity to have our first exchange visit. Which makes sense, as we’re both the only ones at the moment representing Akvo in areas of the world where the actual work of our partners is taking place. Another important reason for this exchange is that Amitangshu can be seen as an expert in the use of Akvo FLOW, while I on the other hand have extensive experience in the use of Akvo RSR.

Above: Data collection using Akvo FLOW in Kajiado, Kenya.

In the first week, Amitangshu got a chance to work alongside me at the Nailab, and join me for various meetings with partners here. The very first was with Tobias Omufwoko, who coordinates the Kenya WASH Alliance, and other staff members from AMREF Kenya. We’ve been planning for some time now to organise a pilot using Akvo FLOW with the Kenya WASH Alliance partners here. A lot of things however were still not so clear, which included for instance: which partners would join, could they purchase the smartphones on time, finalising the survey for use, logistics to the field, etc. It was a good kick-off meeting that really set the tone for the coming days. Amit writes more here on how the actual Akvo FLOW training workshop went.

We also had various meetings with other people, such as Peter Karanja who’s coordinating the Kenya Football4WASH group here. The program is finally about to kick off here in Kenya! For some background information, Frodo wrote a blog on the official launch that was held in March. All the planned activities in Kenya will be visible through Akvo RSR and we also plan to use Akvo FLOW as the main monitoring tool for the program. It’s a great program actually, where both of Akvo’s core tools will be used integrally. Here’s a sneak peak on how the Partner Site will look for Kenya.

Below: Akvo RSR training at the Nailab in Nairobi, Kenya.

The highlight of the week was a 1-day Akvo RSR training workshop that was held at the Nailab. The training workshop was held for the local partners under a newly formed program setup in collaboration with The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC). Mark Charmer held a similar training workshop with the people from ARC in the UK. A short summary of how that went can been seen on the ARC website.

The programme focuses on improving water and sanitation facilities at 2 faith-based schools in very different circumstances here in Kenya. The first project involves the Ebukoolo Primary School that is located in a rural area in the West of Kenya near Lake Victoria, while the second project with the Kibera Primary School that is located in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum. Here you can see all the attendants that joined in the workshop. I must say that the entire workshop went really well, including practicing the use of video. Unlike the previous one I organized in Ethiopia, we actually had a good internet connection the whole day, which really makes the training go much more smoothly. I also got the chance to use our ‘newly branded Akvo RSR training presentation, as described by Mark in an earlier post.

What we did however notice is that for the teachers that joined from both schools, their basic level of understanding the way IT works is rather low. The main local partner here KOEE, really had to help out in this. Another important issue that came up is that the schools themselves don’t have any computer facilities. So, even though they were very excited about being able to use our tools, practically they can’t really do so yet. Just as in the training KOEE will need to help them out in this practically while the projects are being implemented.

Below you can view the playlist of the videos that were done during the workshop.

We of course also received requests from the schools to help get them get funding for acquiring computers. This has never been our role, as we are not an implementing organization and don’t want to be seen as a donor. It does however bring to the forefront some of the issues I face with local partners here. On the one hand we provide them with great tools to showcase their work, but on the other hand we can’t support them in getting the necessary equipment to fully utilize them. Another thing that’s becoming more and more apparent for me is the rather low level of IT with local NGO’s here. It’s just never been a priority for them to invest in this. After all, they’ve been geared up to build toilets and do Word document reporting instead of via quick online communications. This is stark contrast with the IT sector that’s growing immensely with Nairobi’s urban youth population. It’s especially this group who seem to find any opportunity in harnessing the power of mobile phone technologies.

Luuk Diphoorn is based in Nairobi and is leading its East Africa Strategy.