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On 23 June we hosted an Akvo Track Day in Amsterdam. It’s been a while since we last organised one, and I loved seeing all the people who attended. (If you’ve never been to one of our Track Days before, my colleague Linda wrote
 a blog explaining a bit more about them.) This years edition was an interesting one. We also decided to give it a new fresh identity.

Like previous Track Days, the programme was quite diverse, involving partners talking about the great work they’re doing with the help of our tools. There were also interesting and inspiring lightning talks and breakout sessions to get attendees up to date with the latest developments around the sector, and also our tools.

This year, we couldn’t live stream the presentations, but we managed to record most of themJeroen van der Sommen kicked the day off, introducing Akvo, our history, the work we do, and where we are heading. Later, Josje Spierings talked about how to go from data to decision; how to improve data collection quality, develop a data collection plan, design surveys for a specific audience and the challenges faced while visualising and analysing collected data.

Next, Henk van Rikxoort from UTZ explained what big data can do for Sustainability Standards. During his talk, we learned about the work being done when certifying cocoa and tea all along the supply chain, from farm to shop shelf, in a sustainable way.

Akvo tools are always under development, so Track Days are a great opportunity to update people on the latest improvements in our tools. Thus, after a first round of lightning talks, we jumped into action and had the first breakout sessions, so people could experience the latest developments first hand.

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Photo above: Akvo Caddisfly demos. Striptests, EC sensors and colorimetric testing.  23 June 2016, by Alvaro de Salvo.


Hans Merton explained the work we do with water quality testing and sensors, using
Akvo Caddisfly. Mark Westra presented the latest updates on Akvo Lumen, a new data visualisation platform for international development. It gives you an easy way to combine data sets from different sources and extract the information hidden within them. It will be available next year. Marten Schoonman held a workshop on online reporting and IATI. “CrIATIng” brought everyone together to experiment with visual thinking and create their own reports with Akvo RSR.

In the afternoon, Jan Willem Smeenk, from Sodaq talked about the Sustainable Internet of Things. This was my favourite talk, as I got to learn about the network of physical devices, which embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity, enable these objects to collect and exchange data. It got me thinking a lot on where the world is going.

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Photo above: CrIATIng. Using visual thinking and drawing to think along online reports. 23 June 2016, by Alvaro de Salvo.


Later on, Angela van de Broek from the WASH Alliance International, talked about the work being done in the programme and how
user friendly data-entry and visualisations can add value to big programmes.

After that, we hosted another round of breakout sessions, so people had the chance to jump into a different one and get a sense of other tools, and how they worked.

Near the end, Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson took some time to reflect on the future of data for development. He presented intriguing questions related to connectivity, data storage and the sort of things that can happen in the near future.

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Photo above: The Data Auction. Jan Willem Scholten gets the audience to take sides. 23 June 2016, by Alvaro de Salvo.


We finished the day with an activity based on the awareness of the openness and privacy of data. It was a really interesting session moderated by Jan Willem Scholten which got the attendees enrolling in an awareness game called “The Data Auction”. In this game he asked the audience a set of questions, trying to find out who would dare to share the most private answers. Starting with simple questions like “Would you share your first and last name?” and progressing to more private ones like “What is your date of birth?”, “How many sex partners have you had?” or “What’s the last number of you PIN code?”. After each question, those not willing to continue would sit, until one last person would be standing, willing to answer all of the questions in public. It brought a lot of awareness about how each person in the audience relates to privacy and information. Specially information that survey creators are used to ask to their informants all the time, but that they would feel very uncomfortable to answer themselves. 

Like previous Track Days, I felt it was a great chance to mingle with partners, peers and generally have a good time. For an impression of the day, you can check this five minute video below, see all the recorded lightning talks and breakout sessions, or look at photos of the day.

Alvaro de Salvo is communications executive and international award winning filmmaker at Akvo, based in Amsterdam. You can follow him on Twitter @aj_desalvo.