US NGO Water for People has launched a visual technology called FLOW, Field Level Operations Watch.
Using Android cell phone technology and Google Earth software, FLOW provides anyone on the Internet access to data for projects supported by Water For People. This visual open-source data monitoring database was developed by Gallatin Systems.
Field data about water points or sanitation systems can be collected by community members, project staff etc. with an Android phone and uploaded on to Google Maps and Google Earth. Flow integrates GPS tagging and a photo for each entry. Users can review and edit data right on their Android phone in the field.
FLOW will focus on these key indicators:
- Is the water point or sanitation solution being used and functioning?
- How many people have access to water and sanitation in the area?
- Are the services able to expand with the community?
- Is the quantity and quality of water meeting the needs of the community?
- Are sufficient tariffs being collected to ensure ongoing operation, maintenance, repair and eventual replacement?
Local data can be merged with other datasets.
For instance, in Malawi, he [Dru Borden of Gallatin Systems], says, UNICEF has already done a survey of all 54,000 water points in the country. You can download that to the phone, and have FLOW give you GPS directions to each site to check up on, pesky missing street signs be damned. If you compress the surveys, they are so small you can fit millions on a microSD card. That means you don’t actually need a data connection everywhere you go–just somewhere to power the phone.
Once you get back to cell service, and upload the data, it runs on Google’s app engine. The data can be stored in the cloud on a variety of services, so FLOW will be essentially free for the average organization to run, once they buy the smartphones. That equipment cost is the catch. Buying the phones is certainly the biggest obstacle to widespread adoption of FLOW, but Borden estimates the unit cost will be about $99 with the release of a cheaper Android handset in Kenya within a year. Right now his firm has been testing it out on Droids and other more expensive models.
A demo of Flow is available on Google Earth at watermapmonitordev.appspot.com
Flow should be posted on Google’s Android Market app store sometime in November 2010.
See below a video interview with Water for People’s CEO Ned Breslin
Other similar new mapping tools include:
- h2.0 Monitoring Service to Inform and Empower Initiativelaunched by the h2.0 consortium
- Water Point Mapper developed by WaterAid