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Mobile phones to monitor Malawi water

By Gregory Gondwe, Lilongwe, Malawi

Malawi has started new water-monitoring technology using mobile phones, which has been pioneered by an international NGO based in Blantyre called ‘Water for People’. The new form of monitoring technology is called Field Level Operation Watch (FLOW).

FLOW utilises cutting edge technology including Android cell phone technology and Google Earth software, to collect and share information about water supply points.

Water for People’s Malawi’s Country Director Kate Harawa said the new technology provides anyone on the internet with access to crucial data for projects supported by her institution or other organisations.

She observed that monitoring field progress has been one major challenge experienced in the water and sanitation sector for quite some time and the new technology is the institution’s response to this.

“Because of inadequate monitoring, government and other players in the sector are prone to either duplicating efforts or reporting inaccurate information as regards the real water and sanitation situation that Malawians are facing; as such scarce resources are either wasted or misdirected,” she said.

FLOW is a dynamic new baseline and monitoring tool that allows the user to get a clear view of what water sources are working, what borehole/water point is on the verge of disrepair, and what’s broken.

With this technology, the institution says the information is relatively easy to gather, share and understand so that better solutions can be developed for lasting impact.

“As a result, resources will be directed to where they are in most need and people will be better served,” she said.

“We cannot just say our work is sustainable. We must prove it. We believe we can only say our work is sustainable if we demonstrate that water is flowing and people are using toilets and washing hands in all program areas we work in, all the time. It is not truly transparent if we cherry-pick stories and only portray small samples of data,” explained Harawa.

She said FLOW is their first stages of  making themselves accountable and transparent to their development partners and the communities they serve.

The technology has already been tested in 861 households and 36 primary schools in the Southern border district of Chikhwawa.

FLOW technology’s key indicators include establishing whether or not a water point or sanitation solution is being used and functioning, the number of people who have access to water and sanitation in an area and whether or not the quantity and quality of water meeting the needs of the community.

Through the technology Harawa says they also able to establish whether or not if sufficient tariffs being collected would ensure ongoing operation, maintenance, repair and eventual replacement.

“Through the simple statistical presentation of interviewee responses produced by FLOW, not only will Water for People use the data to make better programming decisions, but governments, partners, donors and the public can easily monitor projects as well,” declared Harawa.


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