Data innovating speed and accuracy of WASH activities in Tanzania

News
As the saying goes, if you can measure it, you can manage it. Some go so far as to say that data is as valuable a resource in the information age as oil was in the industrial age. One thing is certain, access to a solid evidence base is fundamental to effective policy advocacy and sound decision making in any sector.
Participants following how the system works through their electronic devices - smartphones and laptops
Participants following how the system works through their electronic devices - smartphones and laptops
A GIS Scientist- Kasongi Ng’winamila facilitating the session during the training
Description
A GIS Scientist- Kasongi Ng’winamila facilitating the session during the training

Capitalizing on promising digital technology, a sanitation and hygiene programme in Tanzania is working to improve the country’s evidence base on the status of its sanitation and hygiene facilities with a view to adding value to data on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and informing progress within that sector.

The programme is called UMATA – the Sanitation and Hygiene Programme in Tanzania – and with the support of the Global Sanitation Fund of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), it is piloting the use of mobile survey tools coupled with mapping technology to do it.  

During a meeting held on 13 July to review the auditing of data quality, UMATA provided participants with a capacity building session on mobile data collection and the Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping tool. 

The session was led by Kasongi Ng’winamila, a GIS scientist and assistant lecturer at the University of Dodoma. 

Kasongi reminded participants of the advantages that the geo-referenced data brings to the monitoring and evaluation systems.

“With these tools, we are going to increase the speed of the decision-making process because data will be collected and fed into the system in real time. They are also going to be processed, analyzed and the report will be given in timely,” he said. 

Participants following how the system works through their electronic devices - smartphones and laptops
Description
Participants following how the system works through their electronic devices - smartphones and laptops

UMATA is facilitating the process of adding value to WASH data across the programme area as a model for the country to adopt the use of mobile survey tools and GIS technology in reviewing and monitoring the status of sanitation and hygiene facilities. 

Currently, much of the sanitation data collected in Tanzania is not geo-referenced, in other words, it is not accompanied by location information. The current paper-based approach also takes more time in both the collection and analysis processes, and verification is also more complex and time-consuming, especially when tracking an individual facility.

We expect in the near future all of our sanitation data to tell the complete story,” said Joseph, a participant who works as a health officer with a town council.

“With location information, it will be easy to get more visual representation of the situation as compared to matrixes and graphs,” he said. 

UMATA envisions that the technology will improve speed and accuracy in data collection and consolidation for timely decision-making processes and successful advocacy.

The programme is part of Tanzania’s National Sanitation Campaign and is implemented by Plan International in partnership with the Government of Tanzania with support from the WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund.