Original Research

The devil is in the detail – an analysis of the DBSA’s ‘Access to Sanitation’ indicator

M. K. Ingle
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 5, No 2 | a136 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v5i2.136 | © 2009 M. K. Ingle | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 March 2016 | Published: 04 April 2009

About the author(s)

M. K. Ingle, evelopment Support (CDS), University of the Free State, Bloemfontein,, South Africa

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When using indicator values to measure change over an interval of time, the general understanding of the factor being analysed may have been modified during the period under review. Altered definitions of ‘urban’, or ‘poverty’, provide common instances of this phenomenon. This article outlines a similar situation with respect to the ‘access to sanitation’ indicator as it features in the Development Bank of Southern Africa’s series of Development Reports. These publications are often referred to as a ready source of useful information. It is shown how an altered understanding of what constituted ‘sanitation’ in South Africa came to influence the relevant indicator values. This change, if not taken into account, could result in planning calculations yielding invalid conclusions. The article deals with the casual use of ready-to-hand indicators by non- specialist practitioners, and about how easy it is to be misled on occasion.


Indicators; sanitation; DBSA; sanitation backlog; pit toilets; flush toilets


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