Using the power of data to improve access to clean water with Water Point Data Exchange
In 2014, Global Water Challenge, a coalition of corporations and non-governmental organisations 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. Akvo participated in a work group led by Global Water Challenge to create a standard for sharing water point data to help harmonize the data that is being collected across the sector and to provide easy access to existing water point data.
Above (left to right): Ariel Sayre, Malick Keita and Brian Banks of Global Water Challenge. Washington, D.C., 11 October 2017. Photo by Rodney Choice/Choice Photography.
When WPDx was formed, an estimated 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 data often remains in proprietary systems, rather than being shared with others for future use.
The work group set out to change this by establishing a framework for sharing data, with the ultimate goal of improving WASH sustainability.
Given its extensive experience in water point mapping and sharing data, Akvo was among the organizations that were asked to participate in the work group. Akvo provided 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 think through how to create a robust technical standard, presented in a way that is easy to understand.
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.
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.