• Written by Jana Gombitova
    1 May 2018

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.

In the Flow team, we follow a similar approach. We want data collection with Akvo Flow to be as secure as it is simple. We are always working to simplify Flow so that data collection is as easy as riding a bicycle. This year, we’ve made data security our priority so that we can support you in putting your responsible data practices in place. We are building up and strengthening our bike lanes.

Why are simplicity and security so important to us? 

With Akvo Flow, we aim to revamp the cumbersome process of manual data collection by giving you a tool that not only improves data accuracy, but helps you collect any type of data, anywhere, at any scale. For Flow to be valuable, it has to address the complexities you face. But would you choose Flow if it was too complicated to use? For it to be usable, not only are we giving you all the tools you need to capture data, we are simplifying Flow to make your experience seamless and your data collection effective.  

The data you capture is often about people. We believe that data security goes hand in hand with personal security. Thus, ensuring the safety of your personal data and the data you capture with Flow is at the core of our work. Furthermore, GDPR – the General Data Protection Regulation – is the new EU law that introduces new requirements for how organisations deal with personal data. We are working on ensuring compliance with this new legislation.

How are we bringing simple and secure together?

We make Flow a responsible data collection tool by ensuring data is safe at all times. Besides the policies we already have in place, we are improving how we store your captured data on the app by moving all your data into a private folder. This means that your data is not accessible just by opening the data folder on your device, while still enabling you to collect data offline. We will also move downloading data away from emails to Flow’s online workspace to give you better control of how you share your data.

Data security also means that only those with access to data can see and work with the data. In Flow’s online workspace, you can assign and fully customise your user roles. We are now making sure those are respected when viewing data on the map as well. Moreover, we have updated our policy on how Akvo staff support you in using Flow.

Capturing data in a responsible way also means only collecting what you need. We’ve already reduced the information we use to identify your Flow app devices and are cleaning up our database to remove any unneeded data. Besides, reducing to the valuable minimum is a guiding principle on making things simpler. We are simplifying how you use Flow by bringing all the data related tasks under the Data tab in your Flow online workspace and by giving you direct feedback within the page (when your question name is missing before you hit save, or your bulk upload is completed successfully). This results in fewer clicks, more insights and a simpler experience.

simple and secure with Akvo Flow

Above: A gif illustrating the simple and secure bulk upload data function in Akvo Flow. 

We can only improve Flow with your input and by working together. With your feedback, we learned about your concerns about user access and your confusion regarding the structure of Flow’s online workspace. With user research, we simplified the upcoming changes to how you download data. Together, we can bring responsible data principles to the core of our work and ensure that data collection is as simple as riding a bike.

We have many valuable changes coming your way. When we release improvements to your Flow online workspace, it gets automatically updated, but the Flow app you need to update yourself. Always update your Flow app and bring simple and responsible to the core of your data collection with Flow.

Are you interested in helping us test the upcoming changes? Do you have other concerns regarding responsible data? Get in touch and take this bike ride together.

Jana Gombitova is the product manager for Akvo Flow. You can follow her on Twitter @janagombitova.