Impressions of Stockholm World Water Week 2017 (Akvo’s eleventh)
Written by Alvaro de Salvo
7 September 2017
Above: The Akvo stand in full swing. Photo by Alvaro de Salvo
Last week, a handful of us attended one of the biggest congregations worldwide dealing with water related issues. Organised by SIWI, Stockholm World Water Week (#WWWeek) took place in Sweden’s capital between Sunday 27 August and Friday 1 September. It was Akvo’s eleventh time at this event and my second.
Akvo was conceived at SWWW in 2006, and we’ve been back every year since, often with the intention to disrupt the sector into becoming more data driven. At Akvo, we believe that the sector needs to embrace digitalisation and become more open, effective, and efficient. As you’re probably aware, #WWWeek is the annual meeting point of many of the world’s water sector entities and experts: government bodies, NGOs, funders and investors, private utilities, corporations, consultants, scientists, engineers and observers. We’ve been actively bridging the water sector with technology, and done the best we can to continuously poke it. This year hasn’t been any different.
We set up camp at Stand 23, which turned out to be an excellent spot: at the intersection of multiple conference rooms, a stone’s throw from where lunch was served and, most strategically, directly in front of the coffee booth, where people came to recharge their batteries and get curious about Akvo’s recent developments.
This year we had four screens displaying how our suite of tools interrelate to each other, and a pop up water quality testing lab. The screens took onlookers on a journey through Akvo’s development, illustrating how our tools help partners go all the way from data collection, to cleaning and transformation, analysis, visualisation and dashboard creation. Needless to say, people got pretty excited about it.
Making sense of your data
Above: Alvaro de Salvo live streams the launch of Akvo Lumen. Photo by Machteld Galema.
For Akvo, this year was most definitely the year of Akvo Lumen, our data transformation, analysis and visualisation platform. Lumen has allowed us to close the data loop, completing the circle that leads partners go all the way from data to decision. We saved the Lumen launch for World Water Week, which sparked interest and enthusiasm from current partners and many other water sector entities and experts.
In order to share this milestone with our colleagues and partners worldwide, I live streamed the Akvo Lumen launch. If you have a spare 30 minutes and want to have a clear idea of what Lumen can do, check out our video.
Akvo Caddisflymakes it possible to do water quality testing on the spot, with results visible in minutes with a smartphone. This year, we presented the latest version of our app, demonstrating how easy it is to send data to our platforms with the help of third party hardware. The applications for Caddisfly are clear and numerous, from ensuring water safety following disasters and incidents of pollution, through to regional water point mapping and monitoring exercises, planning agricultural irrigation and managing waste-water quality from factories. Conversations with water experts about Caddisfly often lead to interest in our other tools, particularly Lumen. With Lumen, it’s now possible to plot data collected in Flow surveys, with Caddisfly test questions, on a map, and accessible to anyone who needs to know, through a link. During #WWWeek, we also met the folks from Photrack Ltd, who were metres away from us and are working on a Discharge app that allows users to measure water discharge within four seconds. We’re excited to be discussing possibilities of eventually integrating Discharge with Caddisfly.
The side events
Citizen observatories – This interactive event explored the possibilities for citizen observatories to foster an integrated management of water supplies and waste streams. Participants and practitioners from private and public sectors, academia and NGOs shared their own experiences with novel approaches developed in a range of local, European and global programmes.
From data to decision: water quality monitoring at scale
Above: Ms Sussy Abaidoo, Ghana Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, discusses the challenges of monitoring water quality at scale. Photo by Alvaro de Salvo.
At this interactive session, the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment and Akvo shared their experiences of monitoring water quality as per SDG 6 and how to do this at scale. We explored the opportunities of new technologies and innovations in the field of data collection, water quality testing and real time monitoring of SDGs and shared experiences from the governments of Bhutan, Ghana, and the Netherlands.
Dutch water sector reception
Above: Guests gather at the Dutch embassy reception in Stockholm. Photo by Alvaro de Salvo.
As in previous years, together with our partners IRC, NWP, Aqua for All and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we helped to host a party at the Netherlands embassy in downtown Stockholm for 150 guests. As always, it was a great opportunity to catch up with everyone and have a whole lot of fun.
Above: Akvo’s Machteld Galema and Bert Diphoorn meet with representatives of our strategic partners: IRC, Simavi, Wetlands and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo by Alvaro de Salvo.
In the context of our strategic partnerships, representatives of IRC, Akvo, Simavi, Wetlands and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs gathered for a brief alignment session and to discuss how to integrate WASH and Water Resource Management.
SIWI Sofa – Capacity development in the use of new technologies Together with the people from Cap-Net UNDP, Jeroen joined them at the SIWI Sofa to discuss how can we promote the use and adoption of new technologies for improved water management and productivity? How can we form robust partnerships, especially with IT companies, to realise this goal? How can we establish a mechanism for financial resource mobilization to support planned activities in developing countries and regions?
Technology gap and meeting with partners
One thing that really surprised me was the lack of technological organisations present at the event. Besides us, Photrack Ltd, and the people from SMART techs, we kind of missed other organisations helping the water sector embrace digitalisation. Jeroen van der Sommen and Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson, Co-Founders and Directors of Akvo, discuss the tech gap in the water sector further in their respective interviews.
My favourite part of #WWWeek was when I got the chance to meet and talk with our current partners. It was really motivating to have people drop by, update us on their progress and compliment us on our tools. Similarly, it’s great to hear about things that aren’t working as well as they could be. It allowed us to listen to our partners, understand their obstacles and look for ways in which we can improve.
Time to follow up
Above: The Akvo team celebrate another successful Stockholm World Water Week. From left to right: Alvaro, Thomas, Machteld, Bert, Rianne and Jeroen. Photo by voluntary booth attendee.
Stockholm World Water Week is over for another year. With that, a new array of connections, partnerships and follow up activities are waiting to unfold. The potential is enormous and we have no time to lose. Over 700 million people still have no access to safe drinking water. All of us need to move faster, and get obsessed with our partners problems. Because when we all do, things change, for good.
In the coming weeks, we’ll get in touch with many of our colleagues around the globe to share everything we’ve learnt in Stockholm. It was a week well spent and I came back to Amsterdam fired up to keep on working.
Alvaro de Salvo is Head of Marketing and Communications at Akvo, based in Amsterdam. You can follow him on Twitter: @aj_desalvo
Alvaro de Salvo was Comms executive, Marketing Manager, Head of Marketing and Communications, and a member of the Management team at Akvo. You can connect with him via LinkedIn or Twitter.