How many countries have you worked in where an up-to-date national information system for rural water services is used for decision-making?
How many well-intended monitoring initiatives did you encounter which are no longer being used?
Your answers are likely to be “few” and “many”, as government-led information systems to support planning and decision making for fragmented rural water services are not easy to develop, institutionalize, and sustain.
It is widely recognized that information systems are a key building block to achieve sustainable rural services delivery – a top development priority given that 8 out 10 people without basic water services live in rural areas, leaving 628 million people unserved. The good news is that a customizable, tried and tested solution already exists, so that countries can leap-frog a cumbersome development process and – more importantly – go through a fast learning curve when adopting and institutionalizing the Rural Water and Sanitation information System or “SIASAR” as their national rural sector monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system.
Following the initiative of the governments of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, 11 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are using the innovative open-data platform “SIASAR”. Different actors are using this tool for decision making, strategic planning, rural water performance monitoring, and for taking appropriate actions to prevent services from deteriorating, ensuring that water keeps flowing from the taps and communities receive timely support. SIASAR has been supported by the World Bank since its inception in 2010. In particular, Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP), a multi-donor trust fund housed within the World Bank’s Water Global Practice, provides funding to SIASAR.
With its adaptability and multi-language capability, SIASAR has now been introduced in the Kyrgyz Republic (in Russian and Kyrgyz languages), and a pilot has also been planned in Uganda. Within the context of the Kyrgyz Republic’s national rural water program, supported by the World Bank-supported Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project, SIASAR has now gradually been introduced as the sector’s M&E system, covering data on system status and service provider performance for almost a third of its 1800 remote and mountainous villages. This will help to target investments and achieve the Kyrgyz Government’s vision to reach universal access by 2026.
With support from GWSP and the World Bank’s office in Colombia, the South-South Knowledge Exchange Facility helped bring Kyrgyz and Ugandan delegations together in Colombia. This knowledge exchange allowed them to receive peer-to-peer advice on how to introduce, roll out, and use SIASAR, and to learn about effective policy instruments, regulations, and institutional arrangements for sustainable rural water supply and sanitation service provision.
Specifically, the delegations learned about Colombia’s differentiated policy and regulatory instruments for rural areas, including tariff policies, water quality and environmental regulations, technical standards for water supply and sanitation, financing modalities for investments, and of course the SIASAR information systems for evidence-based decision making. Through field visits, the responsibilities of local and regional governments in rural service delivery in Colombia were better understood. The three-way translation between Spanish, English, and Russian put in place and the excellent collaborative spirit by all parties helped to overcome the communication challenge. These delegates took away important lessons on the adaptation process for SIASAR, such as:
- SIASAR implementation and scale-up requires dedicated human and financial resources at the national and regional levels, including both sectoral and IT experts.
- A clear roadmap for SIASAR adoption is necessary, bringing in multiple partners to support implementation. Anchoring in national legislation and fostering linkages with other national statistical information systems is critical.
- SIASAR can cater analysis to the need of different actors and increases transparency and accountability of service provision.
- SIASAR has helped to inform and influence investment programs to close the urban-rural service gap, accompanied by a range of measures to support rural service providers.
Depending on where they were in the adoption of SIASAR, the Kyrgyz delegation was keen to grasp the process of institutionalization, while the Ugandans were exposed to the range of capabilities and practical first steps that have now led to a first pilot, supported by the Uganda Integrated Water Management and Development Project (IWMDP).
Seeing solutions in action can be a great motivation. The knowledge exchange with Colombia stimulated learning and encouraged officials from Kyrgyz and Uganda to try and adopt solutions to their own circumstances. A guide is now available that can help any country go through the process and prepare for the steps of adopting SIASAR.
SIASAR has proven to be an effective tool for improving the monitoring, evaluation, planning, and coordination of water supply and sanitation services in participating countries in Latin America and beyond. Through knowledge exchange activities like this and future GWSP technical assistance, we hope to support more countries in adopting the system and joining the initiative, while we commit to continuous improvement of the capabilities of the system.