A new technology to monitor water
A new technology is being unveiled today that monitors water quality. FLOW, as it is known, is the brainchild of Ned Breslin, the CEO of Water For People, a non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of water and sanitation in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The first technology of its kind, FLOW (Field Level Operations Watch) is an Android mobile phone app that captures data on water points and sanitation projects in 11 different countries. The data is automatically uploaded to Google Earth so it is free and available for anyone to see and use.
The two big gamebreakers for FLOW, Breslin says, is that it compiles the data collected and it tracks information — anyone with a phone can upload data to it.
By being able to monitor and troubleshoot water sources and sanitation projects Breslin hopes that FLOW will have a long-term impact on these communities where clean, drinkable water is much more scarce. The data and analysis from FLOW is meant to help domestic governments, NGOs and UN agencies provide and maintain sustainable sources of water. Right now, Breslin says, there are too many water projects that fall apart all the time.
“I want to know that we are still providing water not just a year from now, but 10 years from now,” Breslin says.
It’s not just water and sanitation to which FLOW can bring lasting change. The technology can also be used by rural health clinics to report on what diseases they are treating, which medicines and supplies are needed, or how many births have occurred. It can even help farmers better assess the agricultural markets — for instance, they could report on how much grain they sold that day.
With FLOW Breslin wants to change the way we think about poverty and philanthropy.
“We sell poverty and then we forget about these communities,” Breslin explains. “I want to push them so that water [and other goods] last forever.”
Instead, both philanthropic investors and organizations have been guilty of focusing on just short-term results. Breslin is asking both sides to take a harder and longer look at making sure these philanthropic endeavors actually have a meaningful, long-term impact.
“The metrics in the sector are not right: We are measured by short-term indicators like how many loans we make and how many beneficiaries we help in one year instead of asking how many people we have helped over over, 3, 6, 10 years. I want to know that you are getting a return on your investment. I want to know that my investment led to transformative change.”