Tag Archives: mWater

A Measure of WASH Sustainability

The Howard G. Buffett Foundation supported Global Water Initiative (GWI) has been operating in Ethiopia since October 2007 supporting service delivery to improve water and sanitation at domestic level in the woredas (rural communities) of Miyo, Bora and Dugdain, the Oromia Regional State. The Global Water Initiative (GWI) has been a pioneer in assessing the sustainability of water infrastructure in a holistic way, focusing on various governance aspects including the technical and financial management capacity of the community-based management organisation (usually a water committee), the committee’s transparency and accountability to its user base and the external support it receives.

FIGURE 1: CARE Staff conducting mobile survey
Figure 1: CARE staff conducting mobile survey

Following successful training sessions on the use of mobile phones and tablets in WASH data collection in Uganda, I travelled to Ethiopia in January 2015 to conduct similar trainings with staff from CARE Ethiopia, as well as local district-level government ministries. Prior to the training sessions, I consulted with the CARE Ethiopia country team to modify the Governance into Functionality Tool (GiFT) survey, which is a comprehensive questionnaire that looks at the various social, economic and political contexts that lead to sustainability of WASH infrastructure. We streamlined the survey to capture more quantitative data as well as contextualising it for the Ethiopian setting.

Two training sessions were conducted – one with CARE staff and enumerators in Addis Ababa, and the other with CARE staff and government ministry staff in Bahir Dar. Similar to Uganda, the focus of the training was on the use of the mWater platform to collect and analyze data on water infrastructure implemented through GWI. The CARE staff in Ethiopia were familiar with the use of mobile data collection tools, having used a similar platform through a Millennium Water Alliance (MWA) project. Each session comprised of two days of classroom training followed by a day of piloting the technology at a number of GWI EA water schemes in the field. During the training, participants received a detailed overview of the mWater platform including the process of designing a survey, conducting the GiFT survey, the use and care of Android devices and the analysis of collected data.

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Figure 2: Focus group for survey

CARE USA strongly believes that for the ICT tools to be effective, data collected using modern technology must be able to influence local government decision-making, particularly in terms of resource allocation, identifying mechanisms for long-term technical support and private sector regulation. The local government staff from both the Otuke district in Uganda and South Gondar zone of Ethiopia were very eager about the use of mobile tools in data collection, noting that this will make their work significantly cheaper, easier and faster.

Over January 2015, CARE staff and contracted enumerators have collected data from GWI EA’s portfolio of water schemes in Uganda and Ethiopia using the mWater platform. The benefits of using mobile-based surveys was evident after this pilot, with the process being significantly faster and easier compared to conducting paper-based surveys. In the span of two weeks, all 52 water schemes being monitored under GWI EA in Ethiopia were surveyed by enumerators using the mWater platform. The data collection process went smoothly, with only very minor issues reported by the enumerators in the field. Once the data was collected, CARE Ethiopia staff were able to visualise the monitoring data using the mWater portal.

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Figure 3: Functionality of water scheme

Of the 52 water schemes surveyed, 29 were not functioning, 7 were functioning with difficulties, while only 16 were functional on the day of the survey as is shown in Figure 3. The primary reasons behind the high rate of non-functionality were cited as poor management of the water scheme and technical problems during construction, as can be seen in Figure 4.

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Figure 4: Reasons for non-functionality

After analysing the survey responses on the mWater Portal, it was found out that in communities with a WASH committee in charge of overseeing the water scheme, 44.1% of water schemes were not functioning, while in communities without a WASH committee, 82.4% of schemes were not functioning (see Figure 5).

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Figure 5: Functionality with wash committee (left) and without wash committee (right)

Another interesting finding came from the response to the question, “Does the community raise funds for operation and maintenance of water facilities?” In communities that did not raise funds for O&M, 73.3% of water schemes were reported to either have very poor or poor functionality since establishment. On the other hand, in communities that raise funds for either O&M or repairs, 35.1% of water schemes were reported to either have very poor or poor functionality since establishment, as shown in figure 6.

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Figure 6: Functionality in communities that do not raise funds (left) and those that do (right)

The overall objective of this study was to undertake governance and scheme functionality assessment that will help identify governance and other factors affecting scheme functionality and to develop a community based, local government supported monitoring strategy to strengthen the governance of WASH services, which supports the sustainability of the water systems established by GWI support in Ethiopia. Armed with ICT-based data collection and analysis tools, GWI EA, CARE as well as the local government are confident of better monitoring the overall sustainability of water service delivery in Ethiopia.

Eng. Rahul Mitra
ICT and Water Sustainability Consultant
CARE International, Atlanta

Integrating Technology in WASH monitoring

Over the past two decades, the global water sector has made great strides in reducing the number of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation infrastructure. However, the challenge remains in maintaining implemented infrastructure and sustaining water, sanitation and health (WASH) service delivery. Numerous studies have indicated failure rates of between a quarter and a third of all water points installed in Sub-Saharan Africa, with abandonment occurring only after a few years of operation.

The Global Water Initiative East Africa (GWI) has been a pioneer in assessing the sustainability of water infrastructure in a holistic way, focusing on various governance aspects including the technical and financial management capacity of the community-based management organisation (usually a water committee), the committee’s transparency and accountability to its user base and the external support it receives. Crucial to GWI EA’s evidence and research-based approach has been the development of the Governance into Functionality Tool (GiFT), which is a questionnaire that looks into the aforementioned metrics among others. In 2013, the GiFT survey was conducted in 219 schemes (151 schemes in Uganda, 57 schemes in Ethiopia, and 11 schemes in Tanzania), representing a diverse array of scheme types. This year, CARE International is piloting novel technology-based tools in applying the GiFT tool and harnessing the power of mobile technology in improving the overall monitoring of WASH infrastructure.

mWater Training in Otuke UgandaOver the past week, I have conducted a training session on the use of mobile phones and tablets in administering the GiFT tool in Uganda, attended by GWI EA staff and members of the district-level government ministry in Otuke district in northern Uganda. The participants were trained on the use of mWater, an android-based tool for collecting and visualising WASH infrastructure data. This tool allows the GiFT survey to be conducted using a mobile device, and for the collected data to be analysed in real-time. The session comprised of two days of classroom training followed by a day of piloting the technology at a number of GWI EA water schemes in Otuke. During the training, the participants received a detailed overview of the mWater platform including the process of designing a survey, conducting the GiFT survey, the use and care of Android devices and the analysis of collected data.

Currently, monitoring and functionality data in the GWI partner countries is primarily collected through one-off paper-based surveys that are costly to administer regularly and introduce numerous opportunities for error along the data collection process. Once collected and analysed for immediate reporting purposes, data too often remains largely inaccessible on organisational servers, in dusty reports, and in proprietary monitoring systems of donor-funded projects. During MWATERthe training, it was noted that the use of mobile tools can provide an alternative to this inefficient use of data in a sector with scarce monitoring resources, while enabling the local government and civil society organisations the opportunity to track the long-term dynamics of water point functionality.

The participation of staff from the district-level government ministries was greatly appreciated and added a new dimension to the training. CARE feels strongly that the most important end-users of any Information and Communication Technology (ICT) based platform are district level government officials in the countries of operation. For the ICT tools to be effective, data collected using modern technology must be able to influence local government decision-making, particularly in terms of resource allocation, identifying mechanisms for long-term technical support and private sector regulation. The Otuke district local government staff were very eager about the use of mobile tools in data collection, noting that this will make their work significantly cheaper, easier and faster. Following the classroom section of the training, they themselves adapted the existing Ugandan Ministry of Water & Environment’s data collection form for point water sources into a mWater survey, which was then tested at several GWI EA water points during the field activity on the last day of training.

mwater3The field activity provided an opportunity for the technology to be piloted in five communities under GWI. The benefits of using mobile-based surveys was evident after this trial, with the process being significantly faster and easier compared to conducting paper-based surveys. Using the Android tablets and smart phones, the surveyors were also able to collect geo-referenced data as well as pictures of the water infrastructure. Moreover, this exercise generated crucial feedback regarding the GiFT survey and the mWater app. Over the next couple of weeks, the GiFT survey will be modified accordingly, and then translated to local languages in GWI EA’s area of operation, including Lango (Uganda) and Oromiffa (Ethiopia). This training will also be conducted in Addis Ababa and Bahir Dar in Ethiopia. Following these training sessions, the next round of data collection across GWI EA’s portfolio of water schemes in Uganda and Ethiopia will be conducted using the mWater platform.

The use of mobile technology will enable the collected data to be analysed in real-time through water functionality maps. In the future, CARE hopes to integrate this data into an online dashboard which will be highly customizable, allowing users the ability to analyse functionality of individual water systems, governance structures that lead to sustainable water services, as well as patterns and trends useful for resource allocation.

Data collection in OtukeCARE also plans to pilot a SMS-based service which will allow rural water committees or individual users to report information regarding the functionality of their water point. SMS messages can be sent at minimal cost using the most basic, inexpensive mobile phones. Harnessing SMS reporting will allow community-based WASH committees or individuals to relay data about the functionality of their water infrastructure proactively to the local government official or private sector service provider responsible for maintenance and repair. Once an issue has been flagged, the relevant service providers, including the district-level government and the private sector operators linked to the systems will be alerted. This service will address issues of information asymmetry between key stakeholders, and is expected to lead to faster and more reliable responses to breakdowns.

The GWI EA and CARE team is confident that integrating technology in WASH monitoring will improve the overall sustainability of water service delivery.

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Eng. Rahul Mitra
ICT and Water Sustainability Consultant
CARE International, Atlanta