Water Point Data

Interview Tim Foster from the Insitute for Sustainable Futures

Date of interview: 2017/06/02

In June 2017, WASHNote spoke to Tim Foster, a researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney. In his profession, Tim uses Water Point Data for evaluation studies, e.g. researching waterpoint sustainability and the Bluepump. In his work as a researcher, Tim learned the value of the quality of data collection.

“The biggest data issue is quality. The use [of water point data] depends on how readily available the data are. The better the data are, at least for researchers, the lower the transaction costs are for us to do research. Currently, you often don’t know what quality control measures have been applied to the collected data.”

In formulating a vision for the future of water service delivery and the use of Water Point Data, Tim emphasized the relation between data that is collected and information the is needed.

“There is a gap in the relation between what data are collected and what information is needed. Collecting data about functionality is an interesting headline, but it does not directly lead to improvements [in service delivery]. The question is what the information gaps are that we do need to fill. We should be more thoughtful on what information we collect. The regularity of data collection is also important. The next level is stringing together time series of data and cross-checking those with service delivery figures and practice, rather than making just one snapshot.”



Interview with John Feighery from mWater

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.”