Akvo: The subsequent technology of information assortment for sustainable improvement



Cisco is proud to assist Akvo, which offers knowledge providers and tech options to improvement companions within the water, agriculture, and local weather sectors. We all know that knowledge is important for efficient decision-making, collaboration, and accountability. Akvo helps businesses and governments world wide to enhance their packages to allow them to obtain lasting impression.

This publish comes from Pleasure Ghosh, Akvo’s Tech Lead. Pleasure has been working within the discipline of information and expertise for improvement for the previous 10 years, and makes a speciality of constructing knowledge platforms for the agriculture and water sectors.

Joy Ghosh, Akvo’s Tech Lead.
Pleasure Ghosh, Akvo’s Tech Lead.

Right here’s how knowledge is often collected within the improvement sector. Let’s say a venture is about as much as enhance the earnings of smallholder farmers or obtain secure water entry in a sure area. Enumerators are despatched out to gather knowledge on the communities that are impacted by these points. Interventions are then put in place to enhance the outcomes and contribute in direction of impression. On the finish of this system, enumerators are despatched out as soon as once more to gather knowledge and monitor change. However what if we might complement this tried and examined technique of information assortment with steady enter from the sphere, fairly than simply baseline knowledge firstly and the tip of a program? And what if, fairly than knocking on doorways to gather knowledge, neighborhood members had a platform to share data on their challenges and wishes. What if we might use knowledge assortment as a device for steady neighborhood engagement?

With assist from the Cisco Basis, we’ve been growing applied sciences to make this a actuality. Unstructured Supplementary Service Information (USSD) and phone-based knowledge assortment is commonly seen as a cost-saving various to discipline knowledge assortment — ultimate for conditions in which you’ll’t go into the sphere resulting from well being or safety emergencies. However this expertise needs to be seen as a complement to in-person discipline knowledge assortment, and the advantages go far past decreased prices and safety challenges

A hybrid method to monitoring

In the present day, enumerators are despatched out into the sphere to seek out respondents from whom to collect knowledge. This conventional technique of information assortment has clear advantages – enumerators can observe first-hand what’s happening within the discipline, and venture managers obtain complete, high quality datasets. Nevertheless, there are additionally quite a few drawbacks.

In-person knowledge assortment is resource-intensive and subsequently periodical. The dearth of steady, well timed knowledge signifies that usually, interventions are indifferent from the realities on the bottom. Discipline-based knowledge assortment offers snapshots into the present scenario, fairly than steady suggestions that permits program managers to fill within the context, and regulate methods based mostly on proof. Utilizing a hybrid method to knowledge assortment – distant and in individual – might assist to finish the image. Program managers can use distant knowledge assortment to realize a broad understanding of a selected downside, after which in-person knowledge assortment to concentrate on potential downside areas. Alternatively, in-field knowledge assortment may be performed at, for instance, annual intervals, after which distant knowledge assortment can fill within the gaps and supply context regularly. This is able to enable program managers to see change because it happens, permitting for extra well timed responses, focused interventions, and higher outcomes.

In-person knowledge assortment can also be a bodily exhausting course of. The sheer logistical challenges could result in enumerators accumulating knowledge from 10 individuals in a single village and none from the encompassing 5, leading to a skewed pattern. With distant knowledge assortment, you’ve got the potential to exceed your pattern, reaching a a lot wider geographical scope with considerably much less sources.

Lastly, in-person knowledge assortment makes it troublesome to hunt out native change makers locally, and brings to the fore questions of information possession. What are the incentives for respondents to present away their time and their knowledge? Does the information nonetheless belong to them? And the way, if in any respect, does the information get fed again into the neighborhood? Improvements in distant knowledge assortment expertise might enable for a extra citizen-centered method.

A GIF from Akvo about remote data collection

Harnessing the facility of distant in Kenya

In Kenya, Akvo created a system for distributing, accessing and responding to surveys by way of radio and textual content messaging in cooperation with county governments of Kajiado, Laikipia and Kwale, Central FM Kenya Radio, and Africa’s Speaking, an area USSD aggregator. Akvo and Africa’s Speaking collectively produced an Utility Programming Interface (API) integration that permits surveys, historically administered by a cellular surveying software, to be acquired and accomplished by way of textual content message. We partnered with Central FM Kenya Radio to ascertain a schedule for broadcasting USSD codes to listeners, analyzing and deciphering knowledge alongside Well being Authority Officers, and distributing survey outcomes.

Radio DJs that host interviews with representatives of Kenya Water for Well being Group acquired knowledge course of coaching after which broadcast the USSD codes to listeners. Every time a survey was introduced, the DJ would clarify that solutions from accomplished surveys could be mechanically despatched to county databases and dwell knowledge visualizations (maps, charts, and graphs) could be up to date. DJs actively distributed survey codes, noticed responses coming-in, up to date dwell knowledge visualization dashboards, interpreted outcomes together with Well being Officers, and communicated up to date data again to the neighborhood relating to two thematic areas: built-in water administration and gender-based violence.

Three radio DJs from Kenya, wearing masks
Radio DJs from Central FM Kenya Radio.

This method permits organizations to ask the neighborhood straight for enter, be it in relation to their water amenities, healthcare, meals safety, or another societal problem. This has a number of advantages, together with:

  • Elevating consciousness across the problem at hand by broadcasting it
  • Gathering knowledge at common intervals by way of broadcast for a fraction of the associated fee
  • Figuring out people locally who care about and actively take part in neighborhood points, as a result of they arrive to you, fairly than you going to them
  • Introducing incentives for feeding in knowledge repeatedly and on a well timed foundation (by way of gamification, for instance)
  • Feeding knowledge straight again to the neighborhood — they’re conscious and concerned in the issue and empowered with alternatives to contribute to the answer

This pilot is one among many who we’ve been testing in numerous sectors and contexts with assist from the Cisco Basis, and reveals how conventional knowledge assortment strategies within the improvement sector may be innovated to enhance outcomes. On the time of scripting this weblog we’re in a scaling section, aiming to assist a further 10 companions (authorities and organizations) this yr with crowdsourcing options akin to USSD.

What’s subsequent for the sector

Identical to the change from pen and paper knowledge assortment to smartphone-based knowledge assortment, this evolution will take time and studying. There are quite a few advantages to distant knowledge assortment if utilized in the proper approach and in the proper context, however now we have to be taught which strategies are finest suited to which contexts, and what the drawbacks and challenges are. Past that, now we have to assume otherwise about how knowledge needs to be collected based mostly on the completely different mediums. For instance, you possibly can’t run the identical survey on USSD as you’d in an in-person survey as a result of it could be too lengthy and too cumbersome for the respondent. That is the place design pondering comes into play, and program managers think about what knowledge is required, how  that knowledge is finest collected, and what obstacles there could also be.

We’re persevering with this work to determine the very best practices, challenges, and alternatives, with monetary assist and technical recommendation assist from the Cisco Basis.