Are national WASH M&E system important for accountability and transparency?

When policy and the roles and responsibilities of service providers and government are unclear, it is difficult for civil society to advocate  and tackle issues of accountability. Who is ultimately responsible for ensuring basic and safely managed WASH services, in rural areas and small towns were clear contractual arrangements are not necessarily well defined or sustainable? When these are clear, are there agreed measures of service performance and who is measuring and communicating results? It is crucial to hold parties accountable for their actions and promises.

Sometimes civil society may fill the evidence gap but then the agreed level of performance becomes a moving target. Government and service providers may choose to discount the methods used and results on the basis that they are not ‘approved’ or even ‘wrong’.

Establishing a national WASH M&E system is complex  and it requires clarifying a matrix of roles and responsibilities so that it is clear who is reporting what and why. Using and communicating results is an important step in holding sector stakeholders accountable .

Indeed, for change and improvement at all levels, there is a need to engage in dialogue around sector performance in WASH service delivery.

WASH Web Registry

Have you every wondered who is providing water or sanitation services or some other public service in a particular place or how these public services are regulated? In much of the world, it’s not easy to find out. Perhaps you’ve googled, gone to the PSEAU database, spoken with colleagues, or perhaps you visited the local government office. Either way, this is largely a manual affair restricting access to those with time, money, and interest. This public information is not available in one place and is often inadequate as it does not link to information about roles and responsibilities. Many NGOs and charities do not bother to go to the local government office before installing a hand pump in a community. As result, it is not always clear who is doing what.

For many larger projects, consultants are hired to collect and validate this enabling environment information. Time and money that could be spent analyzing sector/market data to identify strategies to improve WASH services if this information were available and peer-reviewed.

Even at national level public information, such as “Water Supply and Sanitation in [Country X]” pages on Wikipedia are often out of date despite efforts from Susana and others to keep them up to date and relevant. I wrote last year about my continued conviction for a backbone for WASH service data and here is what I am doing about it now.

At WASHNote we have three strategies to break out of organizational and product silos and develop the WASH Web. Soon we will be inviting partners to review our work on #3 “A WASH registry” of peer-reviewed source of information on WASH organizations and what they do. We are taking the existing public but hard to use information, making it available on Wikidata so that it is possible to edit and peer review and critically ensure it is updated on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is an authoritative source of information on many topics and supported widely. It provides a solid and mature platform on which to improve public domain information on WASH.

We are taking action to do this with (1) the open source & Wikipedia community and (2) the WASH communities to make this happen. We need to work together for the following reasons:

(1) Over time, we expect that datasets on WASH services link back to more contextual information about those services, developments in each area and enable the development of a real ecosystem for high quality WASH data. We need help from very experienced wiki and open source communities to make this happen and ensure a WASH data ecosystem.

(2) Data quality is a huge issue. WASH sector professionals, you are the authority for information about your partner organizations, former employers, or your local service providers. We will need people to start update public information and help link different data sources together.

At the end of all this, we would like to see an open WASH Web, which we believe is crucial to be effective to achieve the grand ambitions of SDG6. We envision a time when anyone can see all the WASH activities in a particular service area logged by date, time, and who did what. The basic information that is required to take action to improve service provision.

The WASH Web registry is a start help us know who is doing what. Interested in more information, please contact us about how to get involved.

You can find our Github repository here: https://github.com/WASHNote/WASHWeb/

WPDx Training with Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment

This past June, the US Embassy in Uganda sponsored the largest WPDx training to date in partnership with Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment. In Uganda, nearly 2/3 of people living in rural areas lack access to even basic water services. This training aimed to improve the Ministry’s capacity to utilize, analyze, and make data-driven water management decisions that ensure safe drinking water for all Ugandans. The three-day event was lead by Nick Dickinson of WASHNote and the water and sanitation expert from the US  Ambassador’s Water Expert Program. A few weeks ago, WPDx had the chance to interview Nick and ask him about the training, his feedback, and more details of this significant event.