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Our Digitalization Journey: Making Data Matter

In February 2020, Project Maji embarked on a digitalization journey using tech for good. We believe paper is where data gets lost. So, we use a purpose-built data collection and analysis tool called mWater. It is a transformative tool that helps us to accurately measure the real social impact we are creating on the ground, the feasibility of each potential site, and the distinct water needs of each community to inform a customized Maji solution. For us, delivering safe water access and digitalizing its impact is key in keeping track of progress towards our mission of reaching 1 million people with safe water access by the year 2025.

What is mWater?

It is a fit-for-purpose data management platform used in over 180 countries by NGOs, UN agencies, local governments and researchers. It is designed to map and monitor water and sanitation sites; move surveys and forms from paper to mobile phones and tablets, monitor survey results in real time and create reports and dashboards for data visualization. mWater mobile apps are simple to use and work on and offline, designed specifically for regions with spotty internet service.

Our Digitalization Journey

Site Selection

At Project Maji, we have replaced paper with digital surveys right at the start of our operations model. During the site selection process, we conduct rapid assessment of each community's water challenges and needs. mWater’s digitalized traffic light dashboard developed in partnership with the London Business School, helps us to validate the selection of communities that qualify for intervention. Considerations include the sustainability of the aquifer, availability of an existing water source or not, willingness to pay a nominal fee for water and size of the community. See results from a feasibility assessment conducted in a Kenyan growth centre for questions regarding demand and willingness to pay for water:

Operating with a business mindset requires that we verify not only the demand for our service but also the willingness and ability to pay for it, for each potential site to be truly self-sustainable. The charts above show promising results with 65% affirming the need for a new communal water point and 79.5% viewing the price of water as fair. Through mWater, we can efficiently gather these and a number of other important data points before finalizing the installation of a Maji kiosk.

Impact Measurement

785 million people lack access to safe water, and we are committed to contribute to ending the water crisis sustainably ended. This is why we measure the impact of everything we do, not only to show our donors their investment pays off on many levels, but also to ensure we finish what we started. The water crisis, contrary to other geopolitical challenges such as protracted humanitarian crises, is straightforward to solve with the right focus. With novel performance-based models that include cost-recovery, the lives of families living in water-poor communities must be transformed with clean water pumped through our solar-powered water kiosks.

To quantify results and measure progress, we implement a cycle of pre- and post-intervention community surveys repeating questions linked to community satisfaction, health, education, economic productivity, and safety of community women one year post intervention. For example, the pre-and-post intervention surveys conducted in Ulutya, Mutwamaki and Kavwea Communities in Machakos County reflect a drastic improvement in the safety of women and children while trying to collect water, after the installation of the Maji kiosk in the heart of these communities:

Before we opened the taps in these communities, 58% people reported that it was unsafe for women and children to collect water. Post-intervention, 92% rated accessing water through the Maji kiosk as very safe and safe. Similar other variables i.e., improvement in community education, health, school and work absenteeism reflect the socio-economic impact of our work on the lives of water-poor communities and inform decision-making for current and future interventions by Project Maji.

Earlier last year, we took a field trip to test our digitalized data collection system in Assin North, Ghana. Watch the video for a short sneak peek:

Robust data management and impact measurement is another way we have broken free from the traditional scattershot approach the rural water landscape is attuned to. Instead of throwing solutions at the wall to see what sticks, we are designing solutions informed by pre-intervention assessment and post-intervention impact studies in support of an evidence-based approach. This ultimately supports community patronage, high customer satisfaction rates and therefore solid willingness to pay. Only if we achieve high penetration rates, we will be able to become a financially sustainable safe water enterprise, paving the way to scaling up and opening more taps.

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