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.
Date of interview: 2017/06/02
Several organizations have specialized in the creation of water point mapping and monitoring tools, because of the need of governments, donors, researchers, NGOs and the private sector to collect and assess water point functionality. The focus on the collection and dissemination of functionality data has been a double-edged sword. While the access to data and functionality statistics has improved, water point data are not often combined with a strong understanding of how to use the data to move beyond assessing the performance of infrastructure to improving the performance of services delivered. Local government and service providers require more information than functionality on the actual services delivered to fulfill their roles in the provision and support of water services.
In June 2017, WASHNote spoke to John Feighery, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at mWater, about the role of water point mapping and monitoring tools. In his eyes, the mismatch between data collection and data use is partly due to the way most donors have approached water point mapping.
“Donors need projects. For instance, we need an app or website for a country. We map all the water points, we check their functionality and visualize it on a map. After this magic happens: the project is done and we mapped all the water points. We experience a lack of responsibility for bespoke applications of the data. The focus is on getting the map, rather than on involving the people that will actually use the data.”
Moving from project-based monitoring of functionality to bespoke monitoring applications with the specific aim to improve a service is one of the great challenges.
“Organisations need to act more like businesses: constantly monitoring data. Many NGOs now can not tell you how many people they have reached in the last month. That will change. If we can harvest that data we can perform M&E in a new way.”