Quantifying Progress

This week’s discussion about the Millennium Development Goals brought about the issue of measuring a given development project’s success, or lack thereof. UN reports offer but a vague representation of the MDG’s progress, and it makes one wonder about the credibility of its data sources. This is an issue throughout the field of development and one with no easy, uniform solution.

But in a union of creativity and prowess, charity: water, a New York based NGO committed to providing clean and safe drinking water to the nearly 800,000 people without it, along with Google, developed a new technology that may very well change the way that organizations involved in the water crisis report their efforts. In 2013, charity: water began installing remote sensors that can measure the state and efficiency of their water wells at “any given time, anywhere in the world.” If a well breaks down–which they often do–charity: water will know immediately and can now contact their drilling partners on the ground and take the necessary steps to quickly repair it.


The sensors also further increase charity: water’s transparency, for which they are already known for; the hope is that this real-time data will be able to be relayed to the donors of sensor-equipped wells, thereby giving supporters and development professionals a sense of how much progress is actually being made.

Though a longtime supporter of charity: water, my guess is that employees and donors alike are going to be rather disheartened when the numbers start pouring in. In other words, a lot of those wells won’t be working. A variety of watch/data collection groups, including the UN, have concluded that nearly 1/3 of all boreholes in Sub-Saharan Africa are not operational. Whether or not this shameful reality is bestowed upon charity: water is yet to be determined, but nevertheless, this new technology is an important step in the right direction in ensuring developmental progress, transparency, and sustainability.



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