A major weakness in the water and sanitation sector is the absence of reliable data – data which can help our understanding of service provision for the poor, especially in urban areas, and provide information to enable consumers, service providers, policy makers and donors to act more decisively and to monitor the impact of their interventions.
UN-Habitat, with support from Google.org, is leading an exciting initiative – called the h2.O Monitoring Services to Inform and Empower Initiative – which tests innovations in sector monitoring and seeks to help put in place powerful and effective monitoring systems of the urban environment in place on a global scale.
h2.0 brings together a group of interested parties to develop a new on-line, participatory, multi-level monitoring methodology with sub-regional information on service quality, in addition to measures of infrastructure coverage. A key goal is to increase the effectiveness of investment planning and the transparency of these decisions. We also would like see a community evolve that shares available data through an open platform, as opposed to every agency curating their own data in largely “closed”, silo-ed systems.
The work builds on approaches developed by UN-Habitat’s Monitoring and Research Division and Water, Sanitation and Infrastructure Branch in the Lake Victoria region by using tools and approaches developed by Google for geo-referencing and in making this data universally accessible. Google.org also proposes to work together to determine whether new technologies and tools can drive the costs of monitoring and measurement down, and increase the benefits of this data, so that the traditional cost-effectiveness estimates for sub-regional monitoring could be revised.
Strategies for improved monitoring should not be re-invented from scratch, but build on best practices from Water Point Mapping to surveys like the Urban Inequity Survey (UIS). H2.0’s interest extends beyond the measurement of service quality and service access because of our commitment to improving accountability in the sector. Setting appropriate expectations for service providers also requires data on best practices and relative performance. Thus, we see value in explicitly linking efforts to improve benchmarking data with other previously silo-ed efforts to measure service quality.
Changing public service delivery needs to begin with a systems approach; information on consumer satisfaction, concerns, and actual experiences, must reach the public and policymakers for there to be consequences for performance. We propose to explicitly link improved data on service quality and provider performance with self-reported measures of consumer satisfaction via “report cards.”
The three main components of the initiative are:
- Further development of UN-HABITAT’s Urban Inequity Surveys
- Extending the Benchmarking of service providers to include geo-referencing and to making benchmarking information more accessible by consumers.
- Developing pilot Citizen Report Cards in urban environments, geo-referencing them and seeking to roll these out to a larger number of environments.
In addition to the above mentioned components, the h2.0 initiative also draws on experiences made through the following collaborations:
- MajiData – a pro-poor mapping exercise done in collaboration with Water Services Trust Fund, Kenya, to collect data on water and sanitation coverage in all low-income urban areas in Kenya
- Human Sensor Webs – in collaboration with ITC of the Netherlands – seeks to assess how mobile communications systems can be used to make publicly available information on water services.
- GRUBS – The Geo- referenced Utility Benchmarking System pilot is a collaboration between the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance, hosted by UN-HABITAT, Google.org and IB-net (the international Benchmarking Network for water and sanitation utilities) to develop a tool for presenting utility performance (benchmarking) data in a searchable mapped format online.