OLAS platform: Visualizing water and sanitation data in Latin America

Inter-American Development Bank

What was the project background?

The Inter-American Development Bank identified inconsistences across Latin America in the availability, quality and access to water and sanitation data. IDB wanted to address this by creating a data platform to better inform policy decisions. 

What was the big project question?

How can we improve the availability and access to high quality water and sanitation data in Latin America and the Caribbean?

What were the objectives?

IDB wanted to produce a knowledge platform to meet the following objectives:

  1. Create a regional respository of data and knowledge that highlights the disparities in the availaibity of water and sanitation data across Latin America and the Caribbean.

  2. Highlight what data is available and what is missing to encourage the data sharing by public nstitutions.

  3. Promote and facilitate collaboration between researchers from universities, R&D centers, NGOs and Think Tanks to advance progress towards the water and sanitation relevant SDGs in the region.

  4. Incentivize research through the use of OLAS data, and encourage better documentation, references and dissemination of data and knowledge in the region.

How did we work through the challenge?

User research and metrics for success

After defining the target audiences and ideal use cases for the platform, we engaged in a series of document reviews and in-depth interviews to begin to understand use cases of how the platform woud be used by each of the defined audience groups.

We consolidated and analyzed water data from various sources to create a methodology to determine the availability of data. To ensure no duplication or entry errors, we created a system that manages the data through a central API. The API provides a single source of data for all visualizations, calculations, downloads and queries in the system.

Infrastructure, management, security and content management workflows

We created a detailed content model and architecture diagram depicting the relationships between various data sources. The system itself was architected to manage over 200 million data points and was launched with over 80,000 individual data points from 17 countries.

Once we had the system architecture, user flows and wireframes designed, we worked with IDB's communications team to refocus OLAS' branding and create a full set of Brand & UX Guidelines. 

Technology, security and launch

The OLAS platform is designed to use services that reduce the security and technology risk in the long run.

Our approach was to spend more time building new functions, and less time building elements that already have strong commerically availble technology.

We also prioritizes the use of open source libraries where possible, guided by a recognition that the system would need to support more complex data management and manipulation in the future.

The platform cleared all IDB security and audits with no changes.

What were the outcomes?

The final platform was launched July 2021, through a webinar organized by the IDB with 700 attendees including policy makers from across Latin America. 

The platform is now being used to bring stakeholders together around a more complete, accruate and accesible understanding of water and santitation in LAC,  promote sector learning and collaboration through the R&D network and to centralize water resources and knowledge for policy makers and academics. 

[VALERIA — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRR3JfT5Jlc]