SNV in Lao PDR partners with Akvo, an organisation that builds open source internet and mobile software, designed to support international development and increase aid transparency and effectiveness. In November 2015, Akvo staff visited the Vientiane office of SNV Laos to conduct a refresher training on using Akvo’s innovative technology for the water and sanitation sector in Laos.
The two-day training reviewed the basics of conducting surveys, using a smartphone for data collection in the field and using Akvo FLOW dashboard for data management. Akvo also introduced Really Simple Reporting, an application to instantly share progress by programme partners involved and interested to share experiences on programme developments.
The week culminated in a roadshow, where SNV and Akvo jointly presented the technology and methodology for water point mapping in SNV’s programme in Savannakhet, along with the rationale for using it in Laos. The results of working with this tool thus far, and proposals for future scaling-up of the technology across Laos, were discussed. Government representatives from national and provincial Nam Saat, PRDO and DRDO, as well as development partners from World Vision, World Education, Plan International and UNICEF were present and participated in a question and answer discussion after the presentation.
So far, 1085 data points have been collected in Atsaphone and Phin districts in Savannakhet, using 13 smart phones, and 23 teams of two people each. At each water-point geo-referenced located data was collected on a number of functionality indicators (e.g. quality, quantity, accessibility, and reliability) as well as information on operation and maintenance issues. At the roadshow, presenters demonstrated how different measurements could be displayed or colour-coded on the maps, and how this information might be analysed and used for decision-making.
To illustrate the ease of using Water-Point Maps, the participants practiced with the interactive maps that visualized multiple indicators of pubic water points of the two districts. Participants also discussed future up-scaling this innovative technology to more districts in Savannakhet province and eventually national level, in partnership with district, provincial and national government, the IT and engineering department of the National University, and other international organisations.
The Akvo FLOW application and its dashboard were recognized as a quick, accurate and simple tool for gathering and analysing water-point related information and thus a cost-effective alternative for paper-based surveys. Most important for SNV's programme however, was that participants all recognised the value of the maps and underlying database to improve functionality of rural water supplies.