This past June, the US Embassy in Uganda sponsored the largest WPDx training to date in partnership with Uganda's Ministry of Water and Environment. In Uganda, nearly 2/3 of people living in rural areas lack access to even basic water services. This training aimed to improve the Ministry's capacity to utilize, analyze, and make data-driven water management decisions that ensure safe drinking water for all Ugandans. The three-day event was lead by Nick Dickinson of WASHNote and the water and sanitation expert from the US Ambassador's Water Expert Program. A few weeks ago, WPDx had the chance to interview Nick and ask him about the training, his feedback, and more details of this significant event.
WPDx: Why was Uganda chosen to host the biggest WPDx training to date?
Nick: Uganda has been a leader in Africa, sharing more than 100,000 water points in WPDx since 2010. Besides, Uganda has been using the first water supply atlas in Africa to make informed decisions for over nine years. Therefore, it was a logical choice to work with Uganda in this training to take these analytics to the next level and start making even better-informed decisions.
WPDx: Who participated in this training?
Nick: There were twenty-five participants from the Ministry of Water and Environment of the Government of Uganda, and their backgrounds were diverse. Some officials were involved in generating sector performance reports at a national level, and some were involved in budgeting, planning, and more. In fact, we had trainees that were operating at a regional level as technical support units which assist districts in terms of their planning, data usage, and data collection. It was great to have them be part of the training because at the district level is where you can validate if the suggestions we are proposing are useful. We also received support from the IRC and the US Embassy in Uganda.
WPDx: What aspects of WPDx did you present in the WPDx training?
Nick: The training went over how to share data into WPDx, introduced the four analytical tools supported by WPDx, how to use them, and how these tools can help their data-based decisions. Additionally, during the training, we organized everything by stakeholder groups and geographical levels to try to bring the plans closer to the Ministry's goals, roles, and responsibilities of various actors.
WPDx: What did the trainees see as the main benefits of WPDx and WPDx's tools?
Nick: Generally, the officials were very impressed with WPDx and its tools. They have not had a way to estimate populations per water point nor a way of figuring out what the unit cost might be for rehabilitation and construction processes- at least not at this level of detail nor in a semi-automated fashion. As mentioned before, Uganda has a national portal where people share water data with the Ministry. Nevertheless, with this training, we showed how WPDx is able to quickly share detailed information, which is particularly important for officials. If they can speed up the sharing of the data, it can impact the way they allocate budgets efficiently. Additionally, it can influence the planning at district levels, and how to address inequalities while improving access to safe water.
WPDx: Now that the WPDx training has concluded, what are the Ministry's next steps?
Nick: In general, the discussion centered on how the officials would like to share WPDx widely within Uganda and with parties like NGO's, including how to increase the awareness of updating data in the sector. The goal is to get other parties interested as well, so they can also share their work and data. Being able to show who in the WASH sector is doing what, where, and when has tremendous potential, especially if everyone adds better and more diverse data. Lastly, the fact that we identified the assumptions that need to be met for WPDx to work in Uganda, and that we came with plans that addressed what would be necessary to feed the sector's national and district performance reports, was a great and powerful outcome.
Furthermore, the Water and Sanitation Specialist of the Ministry, Jane Achom, was interviewed, along with Nick, by the US Mission in Uganda's podcast regarding the outcomes of the WPDx training. "[WPDx] is going to improve our [the Ministry's] performance," shared Ms. Achom. "Now, we can share data internationally, and then we can be able to benchmark our performance at the global level. It is going to give us informed decisions based on data that can enable us to allocate resources, allocate facilities equitably, and improve our planning and budgeting process. At the Ministry, we are going to start by making our partners appreciate the usefulness of these tools in improving equity in the distribution of resources, and the service delivery at local governments," added Ms. Achom.
For more information, visit the US Mission in Uganda website.
Photo: US Embassy Kampala