Data for Good, Water for Life: On the Community Water Management Day in Latin America and Benetech Labs’ Clean Water App

By Benetech, posted on

Imagine living without being connected to water mains and sewer lines. In Latin America, where access to water and sanitation services is highly unequal, approximately 70 million people experience this reality every day. To have safe drinking water and live with dignity, they depend on more than 80,000 community-based water and sanitation providers, locally known as OCSAS (Organizaciones Comunitarias del Agua y Saneamiento), who mostly provide their services pro bono.

On September 14, Latin American communities recognized OCSAS and their invaluable work by celebrating Community Water Management Day. This year, they have an additional reason to celebrate: thanks to a partnership with Benetech, OCSAS are now better positioned to improve their services.

This exciting development is the result of a Benetech Labs project aimed at advancing universal access to clean water and sanitation in Latin America. The Benetech team has been pursuing this project in collaboration with Fundación Avina, a Latin American foundation that works with civil society organizations, entrepreneurs, researchers, and governmental institutions to improve sustainable development. Together, we identified the need to strengthen the technical capacity of water and sanitation community managers and improve their effectiveness.

To address this need, our team prototyped a mobile diagnostic tool that does just that. Called DOCSAS (after the Spanish acronym for Diagnosing Community Water and Sanitation Services), the tool collects data on OCSAS’ performance.

We are delighted to share that DOCSAS is now deployed in fifteen countries across Latin America. It can be downloaded for free via the Google Play Store and used on an Android phone or tablet without the need for an internet connection. In honor of Community Water Management Day, our partners at Fundación Avina published an article (in Spanish) highlighting the benefits of this mobile diagnostic tool.

DOCSAS, explains the article, surveys an OCSAS’ capacity and enables it to identify its strengths and weaknesses. The survey results are uploaded to a web app that generates a score for the organization, suggested educational content, and recommendations for improving its management and operations. By using the tool, OCSAS can monitor, analyze, improve, and share services and best practices, while institutional funders and government agencies can better evaluate investments in the water and sanitation sector.

We’d like to extend our thanks to our partners at Fundación Avina for their partnership, testing, co-designing, deploying, and spreading the word about DOCSAS. The Benetech Labs team is looking forward to our continued work on using survey and data collection technology to help build the capacity of organizations like OCSAS to improve lives.