luukandsebastian480 It’s just 10 days until the first international edition of the Akvo Track Day. Here Sebastian Wafula talks with Akvo’s Luuk Diphoorn and Mark Charmer, at Akvo’s East Africa hub in Nairobi.

Sebastian Wafula: Imagine I’m a six year old. What is Akvo Track Day?

Luuk Diphoorn: It’s a place where people come together who use cool technology to make their work better, and to share experiences with each other. They all work in the field of trying to make the world a better place, and trying to help improve the lives of people. They have a common purpose but they do it in different ways.

SW: So, for a six year old, Akvo Track Day is a day when people from far distant places come together to share ways that technology – especially gadgets and gizmos – are making their lives just a bit better? While they work hard to make other people’s lives better.

Mark Charmer: Yes! We need to learn to explain it like that too.

SW: So give me some examples of the people coming, here in Nairobi?

LD: We have people coming from Kisumu in Western Kenya. They’re going to talk about how they’re using smart phones to make short videos to show the world how football is going to help kids in the community stay away from germs and diseases.
We also have Care Kenya joining us to explain how they’re using smart phones to very quickly map out all the water points and toilets in the north of Kenya, to make informed decisions about where interventions are needed.

MC: And we’ll find out the process that UN-Habitat is going through to open up how and where it is spending money globally, even encouraging whistle-blowers to report on where money isn’t being spent where it was supposed to be.

SW: What range of problems do Akvo Track Day people work on?

LD: Some are working on environment issues, some on water issues, sanitation, health, education, others on ICT – the use of computers to improve services. But in the end, as a group of people we are in it together.

SW: Why do this? Once you have all these things in place, what’s the end game?

LD: Awareness. You have no idea how many people don’t know that smart phones can become a way to provide safe water. You can use a simple smart phone to do a simple video you can put on YouTube. You can just post pictures online just like you do with Facebook, to connect people working on these problems to the rest of the world.

We’re hoping a lot of these partners will get inspired, on how to move forward with the work they do. After the track Day I want each participant to become an Akvo ambassador to the rest. The people who are coming here are just the tip of the iceberg, compared to the numbers who could be involved one day.

SW: I see this being about demystifying what development projects are. In so many projects, there’s talk about poverty alleviation. But what does that mean? Instead, just saying “Did you know you can now get water because of smart phones?” is a powerful message. People just want water. And they want toilets in schools. Simple things. All of the people coming to the Track Day are working on fixing those problems. And they’re using new technologies to make this process easier.
The Akvo Track Day events are free to attend, and running in Nairobi, Amsterdam and Washington DC on Thursday 23 May. Sign up below.
Button NBO2 Button AMS2 Button DC2 Sebastian Wafula is a social media consultant at TrINC Media, based in Nairobi.