Our goal at WASHwatch is to provide a complete picture of national water and sanitation policies through measuring progress made by government towards meeting their policy and budgetary commitments. Were this simple, it would already have been done. Unfortunately, the necessary data is not always easily accessible, if at all. So how do you analyse data that is not available? You have to generate it!
The data available at WASHwatch can be thought of as an ongoing survey of how WASH stakeholders and advocates view their government’s progress. One common worry we have encountered is that as the data is crowdsourced (and therefore has not been independently checked for its validity), it might not be accurate. We do not see this as a challenge but rather an opportunity. Often when people think of data they think of hard data, that is, quantifiable data put forth as indisputable fact. Hard data is certainly valuable but there is also a role to be played by hard data’s softer counterpart. Soft data is more subjective, a collection of anecdotes, surveys and opinions. Both hard and soft data add value and the two often work together, complementing each other to tell the full story.
The data available at WASHwatch is subjective and as with any survey data, the value is all in the analysis. It is not because survey respondents all agree about something that it is necessarily true but their agreement (or disagreement) tells a story. “Good progress” will undoubtedly mean different things to different people. Not all of the contributors will have access to the same information. Some contributors might have a rural perspective and others a more urban perspective. However, it is precisely this array of perspectives that enriches the WASHwatch data. Consensus over a country’s high score indicates more than just progress, it indicates a certain level of transparency because multiple stakeholders are aware of what the government is doing. Similarly, a government scoring poorly does not necessarily mean that no progress has been made but that the government in question has not been very transparent about their successes (or their failures). Although not always explicitly stated, it is certainly in the spirit of the Sharm el-Sheikh, eThekwini, SACOSAN for governments to improve transparency surrounding water and sanitation programming, policy and funding. After all, what good is a national sanitation policy if no one is aware it exists and no one can monitor whether or not it is being implemented?
WASHwatch contributors are encouraged to comment on previously uploaded data. Like any good survey, one response simply won’t do and the more the merrier! In order to generate reliable data, we need responses from multiple sources. WASHwatch data is constantly changing, reflecting changes in government actions and policies. When governments make progress or start to fall behind, WASHwatch provides a platform for people to report these changes in real-time. Like policy, policy monitoring is an active and dynamic process. WASHwatch provides a platform to collect and share data about water and sanitation policy commitments. However, WASHwatch is not the last word. It, like the government policies we monitor, is a work in progress.
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