Contributed by Selamawit Tiruneh, Mussie Tezazu, and Tamene Chaka with the Millennium Water Alliance
The Water Point Data Exchange (WPdx) platform offers a range of decision support tools that empower users to make informed decisions regarding water point implementation. These tools provide valuable insights and recommendations based on water point data available on the WPdx platform. By using these tools, decision-makers can distribute resources efficiently and develop work plans to improve rural water service delivery.
The Decision Support Tools of WPdx
The Rural Decision Support Tools within WPdx offer a comprehensive set of functionalities to facilitate evidence-based decision-making. These tools were developed based on the most frequently asked questions in a survey conducted with government water experts. The tools include:
Measuring Water Access by region and sub-region (Administrative Regional Analysis): This tool enables decision-makers to assess the basic water access situation in each region and sub-region and identify areas that require immediate attention and investment. By analyzing the data available on the WPdx platform, decision-makers can understand the extent of the water access problem in different regions and prioritize interventions accordingly.
Prioritize Locations for Rehabilitation (Rehab Priority Analysis): By utilizing this tool, decision-makers can identify broken water points and prioritize their rehabilitation based on the population they serve, ensuring that resources are directed towards areas with the greatest need. The tool considers factors such as the number of people affected by a non-functioning water point and the potential impact of its rehabilitation on improving access to clean water.
Prioritize Locations for New Construction (Service Gap Identification Analysis): This tool assists decision-makers in determining the most suitable locations for new water point construction. It considers factors such as population density, geographical accessibility, and the absence of existing water points to ensure that new water points are established where they will have the most impact. By using this tool, decision-makers can make data-driven choices regarding the expansion of water services to underserved areas.
Predict Current Water Point Status (Status Prediction Analysis): This tool predicts the functionality and maintenance needs of existing water points, allowing decision-makers to prioritize preventative maintenance efforts and reduce the risk of failures. By analyzing historical data and applying machine learning algorithms, the tool provides insights into the likelihood of a water point’s functionality and helps decision-makers allocate resources effectively for maintenance and repair.
Case Study: Application of WPdx Decision Support Tools
In the context of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation funded Sustainable WASH Program (SWP), the Millennium Water Alliance (MWA) utilized the WPdx decision support tools to conduct a service gap identification analysis in three targeted woredas (Dera, Farta, and N. Mecha) in the Amhara region. The analysis aimed to identify areas where new water points would provide basic access to the most people, prioritize rehabilitation efforts, and assess the predicted risk index based on the uploaded data in the WPdx platform.
The analysis results were presented to technical staff and team leaders at various levels, including the regional, zonal, and woreda water bureaus, and program partner experts in March 2023The demonstration showcased the functioning and non-functioning water sources, population density, top priorities for new water point construction, and the need for rehabilitation in the targeted woredas.
Figure 1: WPdx decision support tool training and consultative meetings with government and program partners on March 28, 2023
Through the utilization of the WPdx decision support tools, decision-makers gained valuable insights into the specific needs and requirements of each woreda. The tools provided them with a clear understanding of where interventions were most urgently needed, which areas had the highest potential for impact, and how to allocate resources efficiently for maximum effectiveness.
Figure 2: Dera Service Gap Identification Analysis (New Construction) from WPdx decision support tools website
Figure 3: Farta Service Gap Identification Analysis (New Construction) from WPdx decision support tools website
Figure 4: Mecha Service Gap Identification Analysis (New Construction) from WPdx decision support tools website
Challenges and Recommendations
During the implementation of WPdx and the utilization of its decision support tools, several challenges emerged. One of the primary challenges was the need for up-to-date and comprehensive data. In the targeted woredas of Dera, Farta, and N. Mecha, the available data was not fully documented and regularly updated. This lack of data posed a significant hurdle in utilizing the decision support tools effectively. To overcome this challenge, it is recommended that strong mechanisms for data collection and regular updating be put in place. MWA, WPdx and partners have worked closely with the Woreda Water Offices to improve data management practices, ensuring that accurate and timely information was available for decision-making.
Another challenge identified was the concern about data reliability and accountability on an open-source platform. As WPdx is an open-source platform, there were reservations among government stakeholders regarding the accuracy and integrity of the data uploaded by external parties. To address this concern, it was essential to establish trust and ownership over the data. Woreda water offices needed assurance that they could maintain control and accountability for their own data within the WPdx platform. To achieve this, data privacy measures should be implemented, and protocols established to ensure that only authorized stakeholders had access to edit and update the data. This approach would provide the Woreda water offices with confidence in the reliability of the data and increase their willingness to utilize the decision support tools. See blog on private instance of WPdx.
Additionally, the trainees highlighted the need for a mobile app that could be used offline to update the functionality status of water points. Limited internet access in the field posed a challenge, and developing an offline mobile app would address this issue effectively.
Furthermore, the engagement and collaboration between the Regional Water Bureau and MWA encountered challenges, primarily due to other priorities and confusion regarding different platforms brought by NGOs. Continued advocacy and training sessions were conducted to emphasize the benefits and importance of WPdx as a data repository and decision support tool, while also clarifying how WPdx can be used alongside existing data collection platforms like Kobo or mWater. By strengthening these relationships and addressing any confusion, the integration and utilization of the WPdx platform at the regional level could be further enhanced.
The Impact of WPdx on Community and Government Needs
The utilization of WPdx and its decision support tools has the potential to make a significant impact on both community needs and government decision-making processes. Woreda water offices rely on limited parameters, such as existing water coverage based on the Woreda’s own estimates, road access, and the presence of community institutions that may be able to provide access or are suitable for new construction, to make decisions regarding new water point locations and rehabilitation. However, these parameters can result in biased decisions that may not fully meet the needs of the communities. WPdx, with its robust decision support tools, offers a more comprehensive and objective approach to decision-making.
By utilizing the Measuring Water Access by region and sub-region (Administrative Regional Analysis) during the training, woreda water offices gained valuable insights into the extent of the water access problem in each district. Currently, the trainees are expecting direction from the regional government regarding the integration of WPdx into decision-making processes. To fully realize the benefits of WPdx, it is crucial for the trainees and stakeholders to advocate for its implementation and actively incorporate the tool’s insights into action plans and resource allocation decisions. By driving this uptake, the potential for positive changes in water service delivery and resource distribution can be realized at both the community and government levels.
The Prioritize Locations for Rehabilitation (Rehab Priority Analysis) tool demonstrated its potential for reducing post-repair work and avoiding high costs. By identifying water points in need of rehabilitation and prioritizing them based on their potential impact, woreda water offices could plan and allocate resources more efficiently. This approach could prevent the wastage of resources on low-impact projects and ensure that the limited resources available were utilized effectively to improve water service delivery.
The Prioritize Locations for New Construction (Service Gap Identification Analysis) tool offered a systematic approach to selecting new water point locations. By considering factors such as population density, existing water points, and unserved areas, decision-makers could identify the optimal locations for new water points. This approach can facilitate the expansion of water services to areas with the greatest need, ensuring that communities previously unserved or underserved gained access to safe and reliable water sources.
The Predict Current Water Point Status (Status Prediction Analysis) tool enabled decision-makers to assess the risk of water point failure and prioritize preventative maintenance efforts. By analyzing factors contributing to non-functionality, such as age, location, and other parameters, decision-makers could proactively address maintenance needs and reduce downtime. This approach may improve the overall functionality and sustainability of water points, leading to more reliable water service delivery overall.
Through the utilization of WPdx and its decision support tools, the impact of government interventions in the water sector has the potential to become more transparent and measurable. The availability of data on water service coverage and functionality rates would allow stakeholders at global and national levels to monitor progress and make informed decisions regarding resource allocation. This data-driven approach demonstrates a potential pathway towards more equitable resource distribution, as decisions were based on objective criteria rather than subjective assessments.
Conclusion: Harnessing WPdx for Informed Decision-Making in Water Point Implementation
The utilization of WPdx and its decision support tools has the potential transform the decision-making process in water point implementation in Ethiopia. By providing access to reliable data, generating actionable insights, and promoting evidence-based decision-making, WPdx facilitates more efficient allocation of resources, improved service delivery, and increased accountability in the water sector.
However, ongoing efforts are required to address the challenges faced during the process. Strengthening data collection and updating mechanisms, ensuring data reliability and privacy, enhancing offline usability, and fostering collaboration with government stakeholders are crucial steps in realizing the full potential of WPdx.
With continued engagement, capacity building, and advocacy, WPdx can become an integral part of the water sector in Ethiopia, supporting sustainable water service delivery and improving the lives of millions of people in rural communities. The partnership between WPdx, MWA, and government stakeholders is vital in driving this transformative change and ensuring access to clean and safe water for all Ethiopians.
Acknowledgement: Funding for the work discussed in the post was generously provided by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.