Wicked Water Points: The Quest for an Error Free National Water Point Database

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The Water Sector Development Programme (WSDP) of Tanzania aims to improve the performance of the water sector in general and rural water supply (RWS) in particular. During the first phase of the WSDP (2007 to 2014), implementing agencies developed information systems for attaining management efficiencies. One of these systems, the Water Point Mapping System (WPMS), has now been completed, and the database is openly available to the public, as part of the country’s commitment to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative. The Tanzanian WPMS project was the first attempt to map “wall-to-wall” all rural public water points in an African nation. The complexity of the endeavor led to suboptimal results in the quality of the WPMS database, the baseline of the WPMS. The WPMS database was a means for the future monitoring of all rural water points, but its construction has become an end in itself. We trace the challenges of water point mapping in Tanzania and describe how the WPMS database was initially populated and to what effect. The paper conceptualizes errors found in the WPMS database as material, observational, conceptual and discursive, and characterizes them in terms of type, suspected origin and mitigation options. The discussion focuses on the consequences of open data scrutiny for the integrity of the WPMS database and the implications for monitoring wicked water point data.
Original languageEnglish
Article number244
Number of pages18
JournalISPRS international journal of geo-information
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2017




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