Water For People and Akvo have partnered to address the monitoring gap in the development sector utilizing a system now called Akvo FLOW, which has the potential to transform water and sanitation development work worldwide by offering organizations an integrated way to collect, analyze and report monitoring data regarding the condition of water and sanitation projects. As phone networks and internet connections now penetrate affordably into most of the poorest regions of the world, even $80 phone handsets can capture geographically tagged information including photos and video.
What is Akvo FLOW?
FLOW stands for Field Level Operations Watch. It’s a system to collect, manage, analyze, and display geographically-referenced monitoring and evaluation data. It has been under development for several years with significant field implementations already undertaken. To date, FLOW has been used mainly to track the condition of water points such as wells and pumps. But it could be used to monitor any kind of local infrastructure.
Akvo FLOW brings together three elements:
- Handheld data collection – the FLOW Field Survey application runs on Android phones and devices with integrated GPS, camera, and custom adaptive surveys.
- A web-based dashboard where users manage and analyze FLOW surveys and data.
- Visual map-based reporting tools displayed in Google Maps and Google Earth.
Why was FLOW built?
The research and development of FLOW began in 2010 by Water For People, addressing the need to replace cumbersome paper-based monitoring surveys and the delay in manually compiling the information. The system wasdesigned to provide accountability and transparency to donors and the public through fast data collection, survey flexibility, analytical tools for data-driven decision making, and map-based reporting of results.
Last year, Water For People issued a Request for Information (RFI) to identify a partner to continue enhancement of FLOW. The partner required a keen understanding of development work throughout the world, have the capabilities to continue developing FLOW, and have the ability to build out and support a large network of partners to use FLOW as an open source platform.Akvo had planned to expand their work beyond its core product, Akvo Really Simple Reporting, and develop a mobile phone-based monitoring and evaluation tool for its growing network of partners.
Where has FLOW been used?
Since first deploying in 2010, FLOW has been used around the world in 17 countries for monitoring. Water For People has utilized FLOW for ongoing monitoring across its country programs. Another prominent activity has been the mapping of 10,000 water points in Liberia in 2011 by WSP, the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank. The primary applications of FLOW so far have been in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, but other projects outside the sector have demonstrated its flexibility and potential for diverse applications.