The web of WASH data

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 useful 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 very accessible 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at national level public information, such as “Water Supply and Sanitation in [Country X]” pages on Wikipedia are often out of date despite efforts from Susana and others to keep them up to date and relevant.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/

A backbone for WASH service data

There are increasingly improved data, information and knowledge resources available for our work on water and sanitation. Examples include the open WPDx repository, Wikipedia and Wikidata, country WASH portals and data collection and dashboarding tools such as Akvo and mWater and cross-sector tools. WASHNote is committed to accelerating this movement and ensuring we have the required data and knowledge infrastructure to achieve universal basic and safely-managed WASH services.

I have been fascinated by information sources available through the internet and computers since the 80s. Amusingly this was originally in the form of the video games I played which were recorded on audio tapes and would mix game text, digital images, and analog audio. The amazing thing is that audio tape could load a game onto my Tandy TRS-80 machine and also play audio during crucial moments. Indeed, a simple machine that could only produce beeps, when connected to a tape machine was still able to trigger a multi-media experience. This led to my interest in connecting devices and coding my own games and experiences, starting with BASIC on the TRS-80.

Radioshack TRS80-IMG 7206.jpg
A TRS-80 Model 1. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRS-80