The evolution of Akvo

by Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson

Above: The evolution of Akvo. Photo by Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson.

This year, Akvo will turn ten. Looking back, we started with an idea and seven people. Now, we are over a hundred, having worked with over 200 organisations and 20 governments. Working together, we have helped these organisations and governments capture and understand reliable data which they can act upon; data that’s being used to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
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Marketing Akvo Part 2 – Rethinking the way we present ourselves

by Alvaro de Salvo

Above: Adjusting the sails of the Malbec, my first sailing boat. Photo by Alvaro de Salvo.

You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can always adjust your sails to reach the port you want. And that is exactly what we’ve been doing at Akvo over the last year.

For some time, many of us at Akvo have felt that the way we talk about ourselves wasn’t reflecting the reality, depth or scope of the work we’ve been doing around the world. Since 2015, we’ve been growing at a fast pace in a very challenging sector, and in regions that demand fast and sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most urgent problems.

During this time, Akvo’s marketing has always been profoundly influenced (and constrained) by the fast-moving nature of our work. Our business is at the crossroads of technology and people, our presence is spread across five continents, and our partners address a wide number of issues using 
our approach.
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Creating Akvo’s Theory of Change

by Anita van der Laan

Akvo theory of change

Above: When in doubt, zoom out. Photo by Anita van der Laan.

This time, change happened from the bottom up: three young Akvonauts – Annabelle, Christien and Geert – went to a planning, monitoring and evaluation (PME) course and came back with the realisation that something needed to change. The course made it clear to them that Akvo monitored key performance indicators at output level [1], but not for outcomes [2] nor for the impact [3] we want to contribute to. As a consequence, we were unable to demonstrate how we support our partners in becoming more effective, accountable and collaborative so that they can achieve lasting and inclusive impact.
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Per user rate limiting with OpenID connect and Istio in Kubernetes

by Daniel Lebrero

server queue

Above: The Queues by Mark Walley on Flickr.

To make sure that each of our partners is able to use Akvo’s API, we need to ensure that nobody is able to abuse it. We want to ensure that each partner has access to a fair share of the servers’ resources.

In the case of HTTP APIs, this usually means limiting the rate at which partners can make requests. A system that performs rate limiting needs to:

  1. Identify who is making the HTTP request.
  2. Count how many requests each user has made.
  3. Reject any user request once that user has depleted their allotment.

There are plenty of open source products and libraries out there that you can choose from, but we decided to give Istio a try.
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L’histoire interactive des installations d’approvisionnement en eau au Mali

by Wendemi Ilboudo

WASH in Mali

Ci-dessus: L’enquêteur Halidou Kamaté dresse l’inventaire d’un point d’eau dans le cercle de Bla, région de Ségou au Mali. Photo prise par Birama Sangaré.
Grâce au lancement en ligne du site de l’atlas des points d’eau du Mali, toute personne ayant accès à Internet peut désormais savoir l’état des installations d’approvisionnement en eau au Mali. Pour la première fois, les populations peuvent interagir avec les installations d’eau du pays et, y compris faire des recherches sur des informations détaillées relatives à l’emplacement, à la situation et à la population locale. Avec des données collectées entre 2016 et 2018 lors de l’inventaire national des points d’eau du Mali, le portail de l’eau combine différentes sources de données en des indicateurs compréhensifs. Cela permet aux internautes de filtrer les tableaux pertinents, de faire ressortir des graphiques en temps réel et de parcourir des cartes interactives. La mise à disposition de ce portail de l’eau marque une étape cruciale vers un suivi efficace des installations d’eau au Mali. Ce portail fournit au ministère et au public des informations utiles pour la prise de décision concernant les infrastructures durables de l’eau. Dans ce blog, nous décrivons les différentes étapes nécessaires pour passer des données brutes à un partage d’information perspicace. 
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The interactive story of water supply facilities in Mali

by Lars Heemskerk

WASH in Mali

Above: Data collector Halidou Kamaté makes an inventory of a water points in the Bla Cercle of the Segou Region, Mali. Photo by Birama Sangaré.

With the launch of Mali’s online water atlas, anyone with Internet access can now find out the status of water supply facilities in Mali. For the first time, people can interact with and investigate water facilities in the country, including detailed background information on location, status and the local population. Featuring data collected between 2016 and 2018 by the Malian national inventory of water point data, the water portal combines different data sources into comprehensible indicators. This allows visitors to filter relevant tables, render real-time graphs and browse interactive maps. This water portal is a crucial step towards effective monitoring of water facilities in Mali, and provides the ministry and the public with useful insights for decision making on sustainable water infrastructure. In this blog, we describe the various steps required to go from raw data to insightful information sharing. 

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La tendencia en el Foro Mundial del Agua: Innovación Digital y Justicia Ambiental

by Carlos Diaz

Arriba: Nuevos amigos y contactos después del Foro Mundial del Agua 2018 en Brasilia.
Llegando en la madrugada a Brasilia, me amaneció cuando sonaron fuertes golpes en la puerta de mi habitación. Fuertes! Y luego una voz: “Carlos, vienes a la inauguración del Foro Mundial del Agua?” El llamado de mi buen colega de Akvo, Bert Diphoorn. Así lo conocí, dando la aireada primera llamada para comenzar una gran semana de contactos con entidades nacionales, internacionales, de gobierno y organizaciones civiles presentes en el evento de mayor trascendencia en materia de agua a nivel mundial. Una semana cargada de sabor carioca, sonrisas y una muy buena energía.

Ese día, el Lunes 18 de Marzo, inició el Foro Mundial del Agua 2018. Además de las cinco sesiones en las que participaría Akvo, teníamos nuestro espacio en el Pabellón Holandés para contar la experiencia que hemos acumulado en la última década. Una vitrina para buscar replicar los casos de éxito en Latinoamérica. Read More »

Simplicity and security go hand in hand

by Jana Gombitova

cycling in the netherlands

Above: Cycling in the Netherlands. Photo by Jana Gombitova. 01 May 2018.

Cycling is so popular in the Netherlands that we cycle even the shortest distances. It’s simple – you hop on your bike and go. Besides, the infrastructure of the city is designed first and foremost for bicycles, and the dedicated bike lanes ensure that you’re always shielded from other traffic. In my hometown in Slovakia, I didn’t cycle often. It might be as simple, but the lack of infrastructure for bicycles means that it’s less safe. In the Netherlands, the constant investment in design solutions for the safety of cyclists means that riding a bike is as secure as it is easy.

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Privacy and security by design for product management

by Lynn Greenwood

Image credit: Martin Newhall, Unsplash

privacy and security by design

Above: Photo by Ian Keefe on Unsplash

With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) looming, the challenge for design and management is to understand how to integrate privacy and security by design into a product, or platform, effectively. Product managers, or product owners, are expected to know their product inside out. But how much do you know about your product when it comes to privacy and security? How are you integrating it into your product team’s workflow? For most of us, this is a learning curve.

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Unleashing data science on household data

by Karolina Sarna

data science household data

Above: Data science by Goran Ivos on Unsplash.


The cooperation between Akvo and ICCO Cooperation goes back to 2012 when ICCO piloted Akvo Flow in Indonesia. The use of Flow led to a huge boost in the quantity and quality of information gathered. Economic empowerment and food security are at the heart of ICCO’s work, and information regarding farmers’ earnings, community eating patterns, crop growth and various other characteristics led to a better understanding of what does and doesn’t work in ICCO’s programmes. The wealth of data, however, also led to new questions and new possibilities.

Akvo and ICCO set up a joint learning trajectory to tackle some of these questions. Instead of performing a standard analysis of data and summarising it, we reached for more advanced statistical methods. Using data science techniques on the data we’d already collected, we could improve the design of surveys, capitalise on best practices and lessons learned, and discover hidden patterns in the data.
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