Categories – the open source for water and sanitation

Over the weekend I attended the AID Information Challenge. The event was held at the Guardian in London and was part of the Guardian Open Platform. I was fortunate enough to meet the AKVO team.

Thomass Bjelkemann-Pettersson presented an overview of the organisation.

We create and share internet and mobile phone tools that for the first time make it easy for everyone to reach out and fund thousands of new water and sanitation projects. This is really important, because today 2.6 billion people lack sanitation facilities and 1.1 billion still can’t access safe drinking water. Fix this, and people climb out of poverty fast. You get healthy people, who don’t have to spend hours fetching water and can make a better living.

Akvo addresses the following problems:

Information exchange

Information about low cost sustainable water and sanitation solutions is available, but spread over a large number of sources, and essentially disorganised.


The water and sanitation community struggles to attract additional flows of money and connect funds directly to where the demand is.


The sector is stuck in a ‘thick Word report’ process, and struggles to share and visualise results in an appealing way to funders and the general public.

Akvo makes it much easier to do four things:

1. Find projects to fund

Akvo makes it clear where your money goes. Funders choose the projects they want and watch progress unfold as the community teams share updates via SMS, photos and movie clips.

2. Find donors to fund your project

Akvo cuts bureaucracy and paperwork for NGOs around the world who today find that process burdensome. They can post projects in a simple manner without being forced through complex steps. All partners are from trusted networks. We make it easier and quicker for them to find the right kind of funds.

Professional development organisations assist in carefully selecting the field partners that are allowed to post projects online. Every project in Akvo has a field partner (project executor) and a support partner (responsible for monitoring) to make sure we meet the highest quality requirements. The online payment system that Akvo uses is set-up in close cooperation with our strategic partner, the Rabobank.

3. Report on project progress

Akvo Really Simple Reporting (RSR) makes it easy for local communities and field teams to share short text updates, images
and films clips, creating a positive feedback loop. Donors and fundraisers follow project progress online and can showcase
storylines automatically in their own websites using Akvo Widgets. NGOs can work with more partners because we offer a common standard for project updates.

4. Share water and sanitation knowledge

Akvopedia works just like Wikipedia. It is filled with information on smart and affordable water and sanitation technology in rural or urban settings. Anyone can contribute knowledge and edit Akvopedia. Local field workers get access to new ideas for their projects, and can share knowledge in new ways. For those with good content but who are short of time to share it, Akvopedia offers free editorial services.

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