See us at the USAID Digital Development Forum in DC


USAID Digital Development Conference 2018

Ona is excited to be participating in the USAID Digital Development Forum: The Next 10 Years. The event brings together over 150 thought leaders, experts, practitioners, and innovators to discuss how organizations can tackle the development challenges by adopting information and communication technologies.

We will have a demo table set up in Academy Hall where we’ll talk about Ona, our namesake data collection tool built for the development sector. We’ll also be introducing Canopy, a new initiative from our team dedicated to bringing enterprise data management solutions to development.

Information about the event

When: March 9, 8:30am to 5pm + evening reception

Where: FHI 360 Academy Hall, Washington, DC - Google Maps

Using Deep Learning to Predict Water Point functionality from an Image


An essential part of ensuring that people have equitable access to services is being able to quickly and continuously assess whether those services are functioning properly. If your government provides health care it needs to know those clinics are open, if it provides public bus services it needs to know those buses are running on time, and if it provides water access it needs to know that water is flowing.

By training a deep learning model we are able to predict, from an image, whether a water point is functional or not with around 80% accuracy. Analyzing network activations shows that the model appears to be identifying a latent structure in the images. Given this, we expect the prediction accuracy to increase as the dataset expands.

model performance

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Kenneth Ponders His Time as an Ona Intern



Kenneth joined us three months ago as our youngest ever intern. In this post, he writes about getting a sense of what being a software engineer at Ona is all about.


When I got an email from Ona inviting me for an interview, I couldn’t believe my luck. Though I just finished a full-time course at Moringa School, I still very much considered myself fresh from high school and the idea of being in a work environment was surreal to me.

The interview was really great. The code test I did was projected to a larger screen for the interviewers to see. I did the interview in JavaScript which is a joy to write. Later on, I got an email saying I had been accepted for the internship. #Winning

Working at Ona

My first day at Ona was hardly forgettable. Mostly because I was at the office at 7:30 am (that’s 1.5 hours before people get to the office). Ninety minutes is a long time: a football match takes ninety minutes.

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Applying the Principles for Digital Development to Data Platforms


In Streaming Ona Data with NiFi, Kafka, Druid, and Superset, we went into detail on our technical approach to building a streaming data architecture, yet we skipped over why this is important. Simply put, we think the widespread practice of building custom software solutions in international development is a waste of time and money. This isn’t a new idea. The Use Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source, and Open Innovation principle in the Principles for Digital Development is essentially a reaction to the scourge that is one-off software.

In addition to reducing duplicate work, our approach — implementing on top of open standards-based data platforms — will mean solutions that cost less and give builders more flexibility. These are essential features to successful ICT4D projects, which supports our raison d’être at Ona: to build technology solutions that improve people’s lives.

In the context of health systems, our streaming data architecture means we can already create a single pipeline that receives information from an electronic medical record system, enhances it with demographic data, and then visualizes indicators on a website, all without building custom software. This is what it looks like:

data flow

Using industry-standard data platforms lets us reconfigure and reuse the same system for different health use-cases or for any particular needs a client with data might have. We can also extend this system by adding machine learning tools and connecting them to existing platforms, products and data. Most importantly, our clients can access the visualization and data ingestion platform themselves. They can play with the charts and data pipelines to discover uses we would have never imagined.

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Avoiding Unsustainable ICT Implementation: Ona for Forest and Wildlife Law Enforcement in Laos


We are pleased to share a guest blog post written by Aidan Flanagan, who worked as a consultant to the Department of Forest Inspection (DOFI) in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos). In this post, he describes his experience creating an app with Ona to reduce illegal logging and poaching. Aidan believes it can serve as a case study for countries facing similar challenges within and beyond law enforcement.


Laos is a landlocked, but land-linked, country which is the poorest and least developed in its region. It is surrounded by large neighbours with voracious appetites for lumber and forest wildlife (China, Thailand and Vietnam), and its porous boundaries make monitoring trade difficult, especially in illegal goods. My work at the DOFI involved exploring technological ways to enforce laws against illegal logging and poaching.

Despite the challenges, the adoption of new technologies and approaches has strengthened the enforcement of forest and wildlife laws. This brief note shows how Ona and the existing smart phone infrastructure were used to develop and deliver a low cost, yet sophisticated, solution to support law enforcement.

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