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“Water wikipedia” seeks partners to go multilingual

Women wait their turn to fetch water in the commune of Bagira, on the outskirts of the main South Kivu town of Bukavu. The communes are overcrowded with residents often lacking access to safe drinking water.
Women wait their turn to fetch water in the commune of Bagira, on the outskirts of the main South Kivu town of Bukavu. (Ann Weru/IRIN)

Akvo, an open-source water and sanitation web portal, is seeking partners and supporters to help provide its content in various languages.

“Akvo is targeting a large number of small drinking water and sanitation projects in developing countries to collect information about low-cost water and sanitation technologies there. We put them online on a website called akvopedia,” Peter van der Linde, a co-founder of Akvo.org and its director for partnerships, told IRIN in Istanbul at the 5th World Water Forum (WWF).

Akvo, which means ‘water’ in Esperanto, was set up six months ago with the aim of helping donors and activists fund thousands of new water and sanitation projects. In addition, the company manages Akvopedia, which is a platform for users to upload and edit water and sanitation-related information.

“Think of it as a Wikipedia, the strength of which is everybody can have an input,” the Akvo co-founder said.

Van der Linde said the idea was to enable people in the water and sanitation business to share their relevant good or bad experiences so that the knowledge bank on the subject keeps growing and improving. However, the content on Akvo and Akvopedia is currently only in English, a limitation van der Linde said they are working hard to remedy.

Language barrier

“We are looking for support organisations and people who want to help us voluntarily… We are teaming up with partners in other countries, such as India where we have a strong partner and they’ve done great work in disseminating part of the content in several languages there. We need these sorts of partners to help us develop the content further,” he said.

Margiet Samwel, water and sanitation coordinator for Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) - a network of 100 women's and environmental organisations in 40 countries in Europe, the Caucasus region and Central Asia - is one of Akvo’s partners. She told IRIN at WWF that from her experience of working with implementing partners, particularly in parts of the former Soviet Union, the issue of language was a crucial one.

“We have some officers on the ground who speak English and Russian, but not many people from NGOs and the general public speak English, which means if there is some important information available online in English only, they can hardly make use of it. It would be very good to have the content of Akvopedia in other languages as well,” she said.

As an interim measure, Samwel suggested prospective users try the free translation service by Google, saying that it proved to be quite effective and accurate.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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