Why is data and technology important? Is it better to make planned interventions with the presence of updated data? The answer however is a definite YES as more in-depth information is useful for better policy-making or effective service delivery for any government, non-government as well as private organization.
Analyzing gathered data can determine gaps in delivery of services, improve policies and make budgetary provisions while allowing governments to boost their economy faster and in a sustainable manner.
Shelter Associates, a non-profit organisation facilitating improved sanitation and housing for the urban poor of Maharashtra, pioneered the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology & Google Earth for poverty mapping in late 90’s. Holistic spatial data was created by mapping settlement patterns and infrastructure in and around slums. These GIS Maps help ensure that the requisite infrastructure (sewage pipes or septic tanks) and toilets are provided in the right location, keeping in mind topography, road access conditions, family characteristics and neighborhood. The mapping is supplemented with survey data collected at the household level and analyzed to identify the most vulnerable population and plan targeted interventions.
Data experts at Shelter Associates share spatial data knowledge through a workshop with Sanitary Inspectors and Engineers at various Municipal Corporations of cities where the ‘One Home One Toilet’ sanitation model is put to practice.
The main aim of the training workshop is to (a) make the Urban Local Bodies understand the use of data effectively in day-to-day activities (b) minimize potential gaps in service delivery in the fields of sanitation, education, health, etc. (c) train the officials to read and use spatial maps for other service delivery.
Shelter Associates foster strategic partnerships with the Urban Local Bodies in the cities where they operate and as a part of this inclusive approach, the data knowledge is shared within the city municipal corporation who could carry out more micro-level interventions without having to rely on inadequate secondary data. By the end of the training workshop, they can read the maps generated by SA, toggle the different data parameters provided, and get a sense of how to leverage the data for better community development.
Shelter Associates (SA) has been providing housing and sanitation to the urban poor fr over 23 years. Since 2010, individual sanitation has been delivered in a structured and focused manner in vulnerable slums. The process of facilitating household toilets was initiated with extensive data collection and analysis at each stage. The collected data formed the foundation of a pragmatic approach, ensuring feasibility of interventions, as well as an efficient and optimum use of funds. The data collection is carried out with help of the following surveys:
Rapid Infrastructure Mapping – mapping of existing infrastructure of slum
Rapid Infrastructure factsheet – profiling of slum
Rapid Household Surveys – collecting household level data
Individual factsheet – for maintaining record of completed toilets
SA used a web-based application for data entry and creating reports (using collected data) and an android app for data collection of the above mentioned surveys. Data collection is an ongoing process. With the expansion of our operations in new cities, the survey forms and data collection systems need a continuous update. It was possible to modify the existing platform too, but very little. SA and its IT partner Soft-Corner were thus exploring new ways to incorporate the requirement. Meanwhile, Mr. Donald Lobo suggested an open source platform called Kobo Toolbox for defining and deploying surveys and for collecting data.
KoboToolbox, a set of open source software tools, seemed quite suitable for our requirements. Soft-Corner also verified it by running a few tests on it for the same. SA has started its work in a new city recently – Navi Mumbai – where Kobo Toolbox is being used for data collection and entry. We have found it pretty user friendly and time saving while also allowing customization. Our initial experience in using this new tool was very good.
Benefits at a glance Mobile application
The survey can be deployed on mobile devices very easily
The entered data can be edited
The earlier app allowed uploading of responses one at a time. This allows all at one go (or one or multiple by choosing which ones to upload) Web application
A lot of options in the definition of different types of questions – including validation rules and skip patterns, save time on the field and increase the accuracy of the data collected.
Grouping questions enable us to view them on a single page.
Repetition of a set of questions is possible, based on a value (for example – if there are 3 community toilets, then the same set of questions about the community toilets are asked 3 times – once for each community toilet)
Data can be viewed and edited in code or label format
Data downloading in various formats is possible.We can also view and download photos captured using the mobile app
Data analysis is made easier
Here is a wish list of what more we would have liked
1. We cannot add a question to the existing form and if we do, we have to redeploy it and redeployment means losing existing data.
2. As far as our understanding, there is no provision of having long integer data type
Skip patterns cannot be given based on the values of certain options of a question
3. The exported excel needs formatting. (-).
4. There seems to be no provision to auto copy a field from the previous response – like the slum name. If we have to enter 50 responses, each time we have to enter the slum name.)
5. There seems to be no provision for re-edits from the mobile device after uploading the data to the server. This could potentially lead to a problem. For example – if we have uploaded the data of household number 23 (improperly) and at some later date, I enter the correct 23, we cannot edit the previously uploaded data from the mobile device. we have to do it from the web module.
6. When a response is entered on the mobile device for a survey form, it asks for a name by which it would save the response on the mobile device. However, there is no format or validation rule that can be given for this name – which essentially means that each data person collecting the data can give the name of their choice. It would be more organized if we could give a pattern to force the naming in a certain way. Or alternatively, if we can pick some field(s) from the current response (like household number and the status) and show that as the default name to save the response, it would be very convenient.
7. The above mentioned name (by which the response is saved on the mobile device) is not available eventually – both at the back end and in the exported data. Its use is only till we upload the data. If that name is available for the record that could help.
On 16th August 2013 Shelter Associates commence trials of the Shelter Associates survey mobile application. Shelter Associates community workers took a tablet computer into the slums and tested the system of uploading slum data direct to the Shelter Associates on-line data collection system.
Shelter Associates have created city profiles for Pune and Sangli & Miraj which are hosted on the Shelter Associates website and are maintaned and updated by Shelter Associates on a regular basis. Each city profile contains information for all slums within the municipal area including: the land ownership, development plan reservations, development plan zoning proposals, approximate area, population, location, topography, in addition to detailed data regarding services such as toilets, water, solid waste management, drainage and roads and access. The information is freely available for everyone including city administrations.
To support the on-line city profiles, the NGO has developed an on-line survey system where all collected data can be input, and recently Shelter Associates has developed a mobile application which allows data to be uploaded to the on-line survey system by a surveyor with a smart phone in a slum, ward office, or any other location.
In early March this year a Google Earth satellite passed over Sangli & Miraj, the urban area in Maharashtra where Shelter Associates are implementing the Integrated Housing and Slum Development Program (IHSDP) under the Government of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). The resulting satellite photographs, which can be viewed on the Google’s application Google Earth, provides a unique aerial perspective of the construction sites where the site layout can clearly be seen. The software alsorecords the history of the IHSDP in this area as the historical imagery function on Google Earth allows earlier satellite photographs to be viewed, photographs taken prior to the construction of the new houses when the area was a slum.
Viewing the satellite photographs before and during construction of the new site layout poignantly illustrate the benefits of the new layout: (1) the access for the emergency services will be easier, (2) the capacity of the site has increased (in the case of Sanjay Nagar – from 311 slum huts to 434 apartments) allowing slum communities from nearby slums which either cannot be developed or flood to relocate here in walk up tenements which are G+3, (3) all of the buildings are organised around a central semi-public open space, (4) all of the apartments are organised around a semi-private courtyard, a strategy which allows natural light and natural ventilation to be maximised and minimises the requirement for (expense of) artificial lighting and ventilation, (5) the new buildings are capped with accessible terraces which can be used for a variety of community purposes such as a quiet place for children of the community to study.
Shelter Associates has been chosen from among 160 NGO’s across India as the winner of the Dasra Giving Circle grant for supporting a city-wide urban sanitation program in Pune over the next 3 years.
Dasra, India’s leading strategic philanthropy foundation, undertook a process to determine which NGO’s in India are doing work which: (1) has a direct impact on urban sanitation, (2) has the ability to reach high volunmes, (3) has links with the government, and (4) has a sanitation model which is scaleable. Dasra researched over 160 NGO’s and identified 15 organisations for visiting. Dasra came to Shelter Associates Pune office to meet with the Executive Director and the Shelter Associates team to learn about the history, philosophy, working methodology of the NGO. Site visits were also conducted so that the Dasra representatives could interact with Shelter Associates project beneficiaries to witness impact on the ground. Of the 15 organisations visited 9 were determined by Dasra as being organisations which could deliver high quality at scale. The 9 organisation were then whitled down through an internal process within the Dasra team to identify 3 organisation who would be invited to present to the Dasra Giving Circle (DGC), a group of 15 philanthropic individuals who all pledge an equal amount into a collective pool which is awarded to 1 of the 3 presenting organisations. Shelter Associates gave a presentation to the DGC which focussed on the evolution of the organisations model for providing individual sanitation in the urban and peri-urban slums and described how the individual sanitation model would be scaled up to cover Pune in a city-wide slum sanitation project. The 15 DGC members cast their votes which resulted in a Shelter Associates victory.
For more information please click the following link:
Pratima Joshi, Executive Director of Shelter Associates, recently participated in a social media technologies workshop through the Ashoka Foundation. Identified as having used web 2.0 and/or social media technologies to advance SA’s work, she was invited to the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Study Center in Northern Italy. The purpose of the workshop was to determine how an NGO can best use social media tools to transform their work and generate ideas and solutions to specific problems. Innovative social change work can be accelerate with the use of innovative communications technologies.
Watch this short film showing the Ashoka Fellows and workshop administrators who attended:
Google Earth has featured Shelter Associate’s work under the Heroes of Google Earth campaign. Shelter Associates was chosen for it’s innovative use of Google Earth as a urban planning and development tool to help the urban poor gain access to housing and essential services (water and sanitation).
Shelter Associates is the only organisation in India to be named as a ‘Google Earth Hero’ and shares the accolade with only 8 other organiations internationally.
A short (3 minute) film has been made by Google to explain Shelter Associates use of Google Earth and is viewable via the Google Earth web page: