Supporting Local Ownership of CommCare Solutions in Cambodia
March 3, 2021;
4 min read
More than 12 million people in Cambodia—representing 84% of the country’s rural population—still lack access to safely managed drinking water services. Nearly 30% rely exclusively on unimproved water and surface water, such as open wells or water sources protected from animals.
For the past 15 years, Teuk Saat 1001, an NGO in Cambodia, has focused its efforts on enabling rural populations to produce safe drinking water locally through the creation of social micro-enterprises. The three pillars of the model are water quality, accessibility (including affordability), and sustainability.
Teuk Saat has set up small water kiosks across the country, entrusting them to local entrepreneurs, who are hired and trained to treat and produce safe water. This safe water is then bottled and sold to villagers at an affordable price and provided to children free of charge at school. The water bottles are delivered to local homes to guarantee their quality to the end-users, while saving valuable time for women and children, who are typically put in charge of water collection for their households.
The sustainability of the action is ensured by a social franchise supporting the water kiosks, by providing continuous business and technical coaching, maintenance, and monthly water quality monitoring.
Running into trouble
Teuk Saat 1001 used to rely on paper-based systems for sales performance monitoring and water quality tests. And when an entrepreneur wanted to buy spare parts from the social franchise, they would need to call by phone and the request would be recorded on paper.
Sometimes the phone network was cut off, so the entrepreneur encountered further delays in their activities. There were also slowdowns in the feedback loop on a paper-based system, which involved extensive time spent on data entry. Thus, the Teuk Saat 1001 managers began exploring ways to collect data more rapidly by including tools that could improve the efficiency of collating data for donor reporting.
Building the solution
Starting in 2016, Dimagi partnered with Teuk Saat 1001 to provide CommCare capacity development services and to build a locally-led CommCare solution in Cambodia that would collect and manage data remotely.
We began by working directly with Teuk Saat 1001 staff in the Phnom Penh office to understand the existing processes and tools being used. From these conversations, we developed requirements for how the CommCare solution could best be designed, built, and adopted by the Teuk Saat 1001 team, working in several provinces across the country.
In addition to spending time with managers in the office, field visits to meet with local entrepreneurs and tours of water Kiosks played an important part in being able to cater the CommCare solution to the people who would be using it.
During the first field visits, we designed and built the application prototype with Teuk Saat 1001, downloaded it onto Android tablets, distributed the tablets to Teuk Saat 1001 Field advisors, and trained them on how to use the application. These Field advisors then performed the checklists and Profit and Losses forms directly with the water kiosk’ entrepreneurs.
The field advisors and Entrepreneurs provided valuable feedback on the application prototype, including advice on how to improve it for subsequent versions, ensuring its ease of use and efficiency. We were then able to adapt the application to fit the needs of all frontline and back office users, dispatched in three key offices.
Improving routine work
The use of CommCare eases and improves the administrative workload of Teuk Saat 1001 field advisors and water entrepreneurs, allowing valuable time for coaching and advice. Each month, the field advisor collects data to be entered into the application, enabling a monthly overview of the water kiosks portfolio. The regional platform manager evaluates the individual sites’ performance with their advisors. When sales drop, corrective actions are designed, and the advisor goes back to the relevant sites to work with the entrepreneurs and increase the volumes sold back.
Analyzing water quality
The monthly visit is also the occasion of the water quality monitoring. In each and every operating kiosk, water is tested to match WHO standards, and all records and quality levels are kept through the water quality application.
CommCare allows Teuk Saat 1001 to quickly collect and manage the data from more than 250 water Kiosks across Cambodia. Managers at the head office indicated that such real-time data availability enabled them to provide immediate support to rural operators if water quality data indicated failures in the treatment systems.
Where we are today
Since the initial partnership, the Teuk Saat 1001 team has gone on to design an online ordering tool via CommCare that local Entrepreneurs with the support of their field advisors, where they can request equipment and supplies, such as bottles. The platform automatically sends the order report back to the team, who can then prepare the supplies along with their regular orders.
Chamnap Keo, IT Manager for Teuk Saat 1001, added:
“CommCare not only helped transition from the traditional paper records to a digital system, but it also creates easy opportunities for me to further customize the system to meet the needs of my team.”
While Dimagi provided initial capacity development on using the CommCare application and was involved in the initial design, building, and implementation phases of the platform, Teuk Saat 1001 is now an excellent example of a locally-owned program that is able to operate and make updates to their CommCare application independently.