The future of global health doesn’t just rely on groundbreaking scientific discoveries; it relies upon solid, measurable data. What works? What doesn’t work? How well does it work? And what can we do to make it work better? These are today’s key questions, and it’s harder and harder to get funded without data to answer them. Funders realize we can’t improve what we can’t measure. From USAID to the Gates Foundation, the focus is on data. In defining statements USAID asserts that they have a “relentless focus on measuring and delivering results” and the Gates foundation states their goal is to “continually improve how we carry out our work.” Stating how many products we put in the field is not enough; funders want to know the outcomes, not just the outputs.
PotaVida has received the message. We are working to meet the need for affordable household water treatment and detailed, accurate data on usage. Our Smart Solar Purifier collects its own data, which can be easily downloaded to a smartphone, and then sent to a cloud based database where it can be analyzed. That means more accurate, more complete data to enable better decision making with less time and money.
But we aren’t just collecting data—we are using it too. With partner organizations we have field tested Smart Solar Purifiers in Nepal, Chad, Niger, Uganda, and South Sudan. Our data have already saved our own field deployment from disaster, by leading to an early discovery that the instructions led users to erroneously turn off their purifiers at night. Accurate usage data, available on demand, enabled us to update the directions on the fly, and then confirm successful water disinfection. Our own experience shows why accurate usage is so important to improve outcomes, and why donor organizations are right to demand it from us.