Kenyan founded Ushahidi of service to Afghanistan’s community projects

As part of USAID’s Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (SWSS) project, Afghan villagers have been mobilized to improve the quality of water and sanitation. Since 2009, the initiative has increased access to sanitation and water. It has also enabled Afghan community members to build and repair about 38,400 latrines, as well as access safe drinking water by constructing over 2,670 wells.

To ensure the project is sustainable, community members were mobilized to raise awareness of the importance of the project and a feeling of ownership was fostered amongst the community by involving them in the planning, design, and implementation of the community-led total sanitation (CLTS) project.
With over 500,000 Afghans benefiting from the new water infrastructure, it was necessary to ensure the sustainability of these gains. Research has shown that an estimated 30 to 50 percent of all water points in Afghanistan become defective two years after they are implemented.

To ensure the wells remain operational, SWSS empowered community members with a well-monitoring tool called Watertracker that is based on Ushahidi’s (an organisation founded in Kenya) platform — Ushahidi is built as a tool to easily crowdsource information using multiple channel such as SMS (Texting), email, Twitter and the Web.
Watertracker is a reporting tool centred around the community and developed for the Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation project (SWSS) by New York based company Arc Finance.
Selected community members were trained to report on each well’s functionality by calling a number using a unique identification number for each water point. To report a problem with a well, a citizen enters the well’s number and follows two simple prompts. Once a report is submitted, the information is transferred to the Watertracker website with all new data and changes instantaneously reflected.
Every well is colour-coded to indicate its status. Detailed well information, such as the technical specifications, project history, community contact information, and the recorded voice messages left by community members are stored on dedicated, searchable pages for each water point constructed during the project.
After a message is received, a technical associate for the project follows up with the community to gather additional information and help facilitate a resolution.
How the system works
Each well is assigned a 6-digit code. Should the well break, anyone in the community can call that number. The Interactive Voice Response (IVR) service asks them to enter the code, confirm that the well is faulty, and then leave a voice message about the problem.
This IVR service speaks with the Watertracker Ushahidi instance (via the API), which stores and maps detailed information about thousands of water points throughout the country. When community calls are completed, the site immediately displays malfunctioning well reports instantaneously on a country map, including the voice message, and alerts the SWSS team.
A Watertracker monitor listens to these voice messages and begins the process of responding to the community via mobile in order to provide technical assistance to help them resolve the technical issues that they face.
Succesful Implementation
According to Ushahidi and the USAID, they have received hundreds of reports that have led to wells being fixed. Also, later this year, the system’s management will be handed over to the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD). Watertaracker will ultimately incorporate almost 100,000 wells throughout Afghanistan.
This project further indicates the great role that technology, especially open source software, can help in solving and alleviating humanitarian problems in Africa and other developing countries.
What is also encouraging is that it is based on a technology platform developed by Kenyan organisation.
“Ushahidi” is a Swahili word which means “testimony”. It started as a website designed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election conflict at the beginning of 2008.
The original website was used to map incidents of violence and peace efforts throughout the country based on reports submitted via the web and mobile phones. The website had about 45,000 users in Kenya during the period.

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