22 augustus 2008
Akvopedia pools water knowledge
Co-founder Jeroen van der Somme and Tineke Huizinga. “People from all kinds of organisations kept telling us they want to scale-up microfinance-based water and sanitation projects, but they find knowledge sharing and reporting to be big challenges. We aim to make this process easy”, explains Akvo co-founder Thomas Bjelkeman. Co-developed in California and Sweden, the projects marketing is managed from the UK and the Netherlands, while pilot projects are getting underway to drive change on the ground in India.
Its perhaps easiest to describe Akvo (Esperanto for water) as the Wikipedia, eBay and YouTube of water and sanitation projects all rolled into one. The site creates and shares internet tools that help to provide clean water and proper sanitation to those who today have none. As an information hub, Akvo helps to share knowledge, match water-related projects to funds, and simplify reporting.
At the heart of the site is Akvopedia, the knowledge centre. Like Wikipedia, it can be edited by any user, in order to keep lemmas improving. The tool is a place to go for knowledge, to share experiences of what works and what does not, and is therefore specifically aimed at development workers, NGOs and others managing water and sanitation projects in their communities.
Dutchman Jeroen van der Sommen is Akvos other co-founder. Since his first meeting with Bjelkeman at the World Water Week in 2006, he has steered Akvos evolution to ensure it is relevant to, and supported by, a wide range of implementation NGOs, funding partners and global institutions. “The water sector has a short hydrological memory”, Van der Sommen told Radio Netherlands Worldwide. “Knowledge I acquired twenty years ago in Africa vanished a long time ago. That is a situation we have to change.”
Van der Sommen has worked in several developing countries and founded the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), an independent body set up by the Dutch private and public sectors in the Netherlands to act as a national coordination and information centre for water-related issues abroad. Today, NWP acts both as a venture capital engine and a collaboration network, and provides support to organisations like Akvo that wish to challenge the business-as-usual philosophy in the water and sanitation sector.
A new feature of the site is the possibility to donate money directly to water-related projects. Organisations seeking funds for their projects find a place to showcase them. As funding large numbers of small projects has always been considered too expensive, Akvo simplifies and improves reporting with a web and SMS-based reporting system that lets project teams share short text updates, images and films clips. Van der Sommen: “People can see directly what happens with their money."
P+ webtip: Akvo