Promotion of the internet as source of information on water and sanitation

Funded by: Water Research Commission

Partner organisations: Partners in Development, eThekwini Water and Sanitation

Project description
Recent developments in electronic networking through the Internet have opened up new possibilities for the exchange of information between institutions and professionals in the water and sanitation sector. However, information and particularly, on water and sanitation on the Internet is scattered and hard to find. In an attempt to help find a solution to this problem, the International Association on Water Quality (IAWQ) and the Water Research Commission of South Africa agreed in 1995 to support the Pollution Research Group (PRG) at the University of Natal, Durban and the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Durban-Westville in creating an information gateway, in the form of a home page on the Internet, to be provisionally known as the Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation Services Electronic Network for Developing Country Needs (WENDY).

The IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, together with the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), the Environmental Health Project (EHP) of USAID, and the Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC) at Loughborough University were invited to become members of an International Steering Committee to guide this development. Following a demonstration of a prototype information gateway at the Third Global Forum of the Collaborative Council for Water Supply and Sanitation, held in Barbados in November 1995, the Council approved the inclusion of the Internet initiative in its programme of activities for 1996-97, and authorised the Steering Committee to function as a Council Task Force on the subject, under the coordination of IRC.

Following discussion among Task Force members, it was decided to change the name of the initiative to INTERWATER in order to establish more clearly its connection with the water sector for users of the Internet. The overall goal of INTERWATER was to contribute to the more effective delivery of services in the water supply and sanitation sector in developing countries through improved information provision. This is in accordance with the aims and objectives of the Collaborative Council for Water Supply and Sanitation, which are:

... to enhance collaboration among developing countries and external support agencies so as to accelerate the achievement of sustainable water, sanitation and waste management services to all people, with special attention to the poor ...

While the general objective of INTERWATER was to promote and facilitate the exchange of data, information, knowledge and experience among water and sanitation institutions and professionals, its general objectives were to promote and facilitate, through the medium of the Internet:
  • awareness of and access to sources of information,
  • the generation and dissemination of information, and
  • the establishment of effective networking among sector institutions and professionals.
INTERWATER was originally hosted at the Computing Centre for Water Research (CCWR) in Pietermaritzburg. Later on, it was shifted to a server in the UK.
Following the interest generated by the INTERWATER initiative, the Water Research Commission agreed to fund a research project aimed at increasing the overall usage of the Internet in the water and sanitation sector in South Africa. This was seen as a prerequisite in order for South African role players in water and sanitation sector to exploit the opportunities afforded by the Internet.

Objectives of the Study
The Internet is a dynamic media. It has seen phenomenal growth in the last 4 years. Thus, whereas the research was designed 2 years ago, some of the original intentions of the research may have been overtaken by the developments on the Internet. The objectives from the original research design were:-
w to support South African policy makers and organisations involved in the planning, design, financing, implementation and operation of water and sanitation services with an efficient information service.
  • to make available, to South African organisations involved water and sanitation, international information on the topic.
  • to assist in making South African expertise in water and sanitation available worldwide. In addition to the research report, it was envisaged that other deliverables would be:
  • a web site linking South African water and sanitation organisations with other international organisations.
  • guidelines on improvement of speed of connectivity for water and sanitation organisations.