In 2014, Global Water Challenge, a coalition of corporations and NGOs working to solve the world’s water challenges, established a working group of experts in the water sector to advance water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sustainability by improving water data point sharing.

At the time, The Water Institute at UNC estimated that 1.8 billion people lacked access to safe water. Although teams of people work around the world to improve water and sanitation services and to collect data on water point functionality, existing water points don’t always function properly and old ways of doing things meant that water point data was often used only once, then locked away in file cabinets or on servers and proprietary systems. The working group set out to change this by establishing a framework for sharing data, ultimately improving WASH sustainability.

Above (left to right): Brian Banks, Ariel Sayre, and Malick Keita of Global Water Challenge. 11 October 2017. Washington, D.C. Photo by Rodney Choice/Choice Photography

Given its extensive experience in water point mapping and sharing data, Akvo was among the organisations that were asked to participate in the working group. The group was asked to provide input and feedback on approaches for developing a standard, to help identify attributes that should be required to submit data – for example, longitude, latitude, water point technology, and date of data collection – and to promote sharing of data across their networks.

As an active member of the group, Akvo also provided technical expertise, helping the group to think through how to create a robust technical standard, presented in a way that is easy to understand.

The result is the Water Point Data Exchange (WPDx), the global platform for sharing water point data. To date, WPDx houses an estimated 400,000 water points across 35 countries, making it the largest global collection of water points.

The WPDx mission and theory of change. Graphic courtesy of Global Water Challenge.

Since the launch of WPDx, Global Water Challenge has partnered with Applied Predictive Technologies (APT) to conduct an analysis of the data library, looking at specific countries. Working with the data in WPDx, data scientists at APT discovered that by layering on water source characteristics – such as population density, climate, age of water point, etc. – they can gain an unprecedented ability to learn from the data. With this type of analysis, WPDx has the potential to help predict things like how many water points will fail per district, which water points will fail in a given time period, and which water points should be highest priority for repair. This type of knowledge can fundamentally change the way services are provided, helping governments improve water services for tens of thousands of people in a given region or country.

The team at Global Water Challenge is based in Arlington, VA. Above (left to right): Malick Keita, Program Manager, Brian Banks, Director of Strategic Initiatives, and Ariel Sayre, Quality Assurance Manager. 11 October 2017. Washington, D.C. Photo by Rodney Choice/Choice Photography

Today, WPDx is making strides toward unlocking the potential of water point data to improve learning and decisions. To do this, the team at Global Water Challenge continues to maintain the platform for data sharing, convenes experts to help refine the standard, closely collaborates with the WASH community to use the standard and supports the use of harmonized data for evidence-based decision making.

For more information on WPDx, or to explore and upload data, please visit https://www.waterpointdata.org/.

Emily Armanetti is a communications manager at Akvo. Follow her @earmanetti.

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