Published on The Water Blog

Using digital solutions to improve water access in Haiti

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Water access by commune in SIEPA. Photo Credit: ONEPA/SIEPA Water access by commune in SIEPA. Photo Credit: ONEPA/SIEPA

In Haiti, one of the Americas’ poorest countries, there is not enough access to quality water and sanitation, with the poorest citizens suffering the most. Between 1990 and 2015, the population's access to drinkable water decreased rapidly due to infrastructure challenges. In 2017, 45 percent of the population did not have access to potable water. Today, with COVID-19 putting a harsh spotlight on the importance of frequent hand washing and basic access to private facilities, improving access to water and sanitation in Haiti is more important than ever.  

The World Bank and its partners are working to address this challenge by providing funds for infrastructure improvements and repairs.

One of the main barriers to progress is access to reliable information about the functionality of water systems, water points, and sanitation facilities. Until recently, different projects, initiatives, and interventions in water and sanitation were developed separately, with limited integration at the national level. Reliable information is crucial for making sound decisions and prioritizing investments.

Recognizing that easy-to-use digital technology can help Haiti monitor and evaluate its water and sanitation systems, the World Bank, UNICEF, and USAID supported the Haitian Directorate of Potable Water and Sanitation (DINEPA—Direction National de l’eau potable et de l’assainissement) in its launch of the first phase of the national integrated information system for water and sanitation: SIEPA (Système national d’Information sur l’Eau Potable et l’Assainissement).

Water points, water systems and public buildings. Photo Credit: ONEPA/SIEPA
Water points, water systems and public buildings. Photo Credit: ONEPA/SIEPA

The SIEPA is a single, integrated, resilient sectoral mechanism and database operating at a national and local level to identify, analyze, disseminate, use, and store sector information. The system uses local operators and water and sanitation agents to update information with mobile phones using mWater—a digital platform for collecting and managing water data. It is a flexible system that is modular in setup: every regional water entity collects and validates its own data. This, in combination with the geo-tagged platform and digital surveys for aggregated data entries, allows decision-makers to easily analyze actionable information and indicators on maps and dashboards.

The SIEPA is the first step in obtaining information on water systems, water points, and sanitation with indicators on water access, quality, availability, and sanitation. This data will inform Haiti’s activities to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation for all). The availability of credible information is crucial for DINEPA to make evidence-based decisions, increase productivity, and optimize planning and investments.

Recent data updates to the rural water system provide a real-time picture of access to safe water, as well as the functioning, type, and other properties of about 900 water pipe systems, 33,000 water points, and 3,500 facilities (schools, health center, and public marketplaces). Within seconds, a geospatial analysis can find buildings close to water points or find the water quality results and systems that need repair in a specific community. A COVID-19 console helped the country prepare for the outbreak of the disease by providing insights on hand washing, schools, and hospital facilities. The process framework and tight collaboration of product owners, data owners, field technicians, partners, and citizens provide a solid foundation for more insights in subsequent phases.

Water points, water systems and public buildings. Photo Credit: ONEPA/SIEPA
Water systems functionality in the south in SIEPA. Photo Credit: ONEPA/SIEPA

The SIEPA and the reliable information it produces provide the country with opportunities for improvement and growth. DINEPA and the Regional Water Supply and Sanitation Office can use the data for further orienting investment and efforts to improve water and sanitation. The system also provides a foundation for further integrating other information sources, such as hydrological information and household surveys. Moreover, technology such as sensors, drone maps, and smart meters provide new opportunities for information gathering.

The World Bank, with the support of USAID and UNICEF, is working to institute simplified and cost-effective procedures and processes for monitoring and reporting and understanding the incentives for data use across government. Services will only improve if the country can build a culture where monitoring data is valued and used by districts for planning and decision-making.


Carl Christian Jacobsen

Senior Water and Sanitation Specialist

Thomas de Vries

Digital Innovation Expert and Consultant at the World Bank

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