Above: Photo by Carles Rabada on Unsplash.

Empathy has a special place in our product development processes at Akvo. We love doing user research to listen to our partners needs first hand, and often ask a lot of questions to get into our partners’ shoes. We are interested in everything, but especially in how our partners interact with our products and what their biggest challenges are.

Our conviction is that building empathy with our partners through user research, field visits and other activities helps us contribute to the success of our partners. We continuously work with partners to figure out how our tools and services can help them achieve their desired impact. Akvo Lumen is just one piece in the puzzle of our design – capture – understand – share – act process, but it’s an indispensable one. Without the analysis and visualisation of collected data, it would be difficult to take action, learn and report on past experiences.

How we addressed partner needs in 2017

In August last year, Akvo Lumen was officially launched at Stockholm World Water Week. Excited about taking a new product to the market and the responsibility that brings, the Lumen team worked hard on literally all aspects of the product. Our long to-do list included a lot of partner needs, from connecting and updating data to publishing the findings. In particular, we focused on the following needs:

  • A need to automatically and systematically update data coming from the field – We started addressing this need by introducing an update feature on datasets coming directly from Akvo Flow. How it works is that you set up a Lumen dashboard and then watch the results of data collection streaming in after every update to the dataset. A little technical detail – we’re using the Flow API to fetch the data.
  • A need to bring together different data sources to maximise insights from the data – To meet this need, we’ve rolled out the dataset merging functionality. Lumen is now capable of bringing data from different data sources together through a single variable such as country name. This way, population statistics, for example, can be joined to more specific household surveys. An additional layer of information can add a new dimension to data analysis.
  • A need to target interventions where they make most impact  – We’re hoping to solve this need with new advanced map functionalities for spatial analysis. We kicked off 2018 by releasing support for geo shapes and multiple map layers. One of the most popular applications of geo shapes is data-driven colouring of districts or even smaller administrative units. This means you can compare situations across different locations at a single glance. Geo shapes are often overlaid with geo points, where every point represents a water source, a farmer or any other subject of your data analysis. In the beginning of March, we released support for raster data, which makes location analysis more effective. With raster data, every pixel of the map can carry some valuable information, from average temperatures to poverty estimates per square kilometre. 

Map visualisation

Above: Example of a Lumen map featuring raster data on poverty estimates with water point data.
  • A need to share project insights as well as results of data collection  – In addition to a sharable link, we now also also support embedding functionality. Lumen can generate an ‘embed code’ for you to insert, allowing you to embed a Lumen visualisation onto your website.

Along this journey, we confirmed our assumption that the overwhelming majority of our partners using Lumen are also Akvo Flow users. This strengthened our decision to investigate different opportunities for closer integration between Akvo tools. Therefore, Lumen’s long-term strategy factors in more collaboration with the Akvo Flow team. The end goal here, as with everything we do, is to help our partners create impact faster, and with less friction, by closing the loop from data to decision.


Developing with empathy in 2018

This year, we are giving priority to the visual side of Lumen (dashboards, visualisations and graphs) and responsible data use (privacy and security).

We see visualisations and dashboards as the public face of Lumen, which showcases the results of data analysis at its best. Therefore, we’re putting some time into improving the graphs to make them more customisable, and redesigning the dashboard experience to make it more modern and feature rich.

Advanced mapping functionality is one of those features that’s always on our minds. We’ll make sure we improve and enhance Lumen maps going forward, in response to partner feedback and their needs around spatial analysis. If you are a partner and would like to share your feedback on Lumen maps, you’re very welcome to do it here – we’re keen to hear your thoughts!

Responsible data use is also on our minds as it’s a core concern in any data-intensive tool, but also because of the new European legislation, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which is coming into effect this year. 

Another theme is user roles and permissions. With large organisations starting to use Lumen, there comes a need to protect sensitive data and make sure that only the right people can view or edit it. Streamlining user roles and permissions is one of the first projects we will tackle jointly with the Akvo Flow team. We want to make it easy and transparent for partners to navigate between the two tools using their roles and permissions.

Do you have a data need that Akvo Lumen could address? Talk to us about your challenges and we will help you find solutions. 

Nadia Gorchakova is product manager for Akvo Lumen. You can follow her on Twitter @NadiaGorchakova.