Mobile Data Collection and Information Services

Many research studies continue to rely largely (even solely) on paper-based data-collection methods. Such methods are often slow and inaccurate when compared to electronic-based methods. The emergence of affordable, powerful, mobile devices (e.g., phones, tablets) and easy-to-use, readily-available open-source software have notably lowered the barriers to electronic-based data-collection. Researchers all over the world can now easily build and deploy high-quality, low-cost mobile electronic-based data collection and information services in days rather than months or years.

There are many tools for building mobile data collection and information services, including Open Data Kit (ODK), KoBo Toolbox, Magpi (Formerly EpiSurveyor), iFormBuilder and doForms. 

How CSR can help

Aside from helping you choose the appropriate tool, we can:
  • Build, test and assist in deploying data collection app and/or information service
  • Manage back-end operations (e.g., hosting)
  • Provide best practices and expertise with data management, analysis

Contact us for more information. 

About Open Data Kit --- a set of tools used to collect, manage, and aggregate data using mobile phones

Leader among the software tools for electronic data collection and information services is Open Data Kit (ODK). ODK is a flexible, standards-based, open-source, data-collection suite of tools which, at its core, includes:

  • Build -- a XML-based survey-form builder (or Xforms, XLSForms)
  • Collect -- a mobile app (Android)
  • Aggregate -- a back-end server (or Briefcase), to host the survey form, gather the survey results and perform some analysis, including visualizations.

ODK strengths include the coordinated collection of multiple data types (e.g., survey responses, voice, photo, video, location, time stamps); data verification; empower mobile, off-line data collection, data distribution (e.g., decision work-flows); multilingual support; data encryption; easiness to learn and deploy (e.g. little technical expertise required); easiness to integrate with other tools; standards-based (OpenRosa); free, open source, active community.

Organizations in under­served regions need to be able to collect data in any location including places with unreliable power and limited connectivity. ODK is designed to leverage mobile devices to improve community­based data collection (e.g. citizen science, public health informatics, etc) by providing a set of tools that enable users to create data collection solutions in days rather than months or years. ODK is designed to automate data collection, aggregation, and analysis in places with limited technical infrastructure.

Selected references and resources

Anokwa, Y., Hartung, C., Brunette, W., Borriello, G., & Lerer, A. (2009). Open source data collection in the developing world. Computer, 42(10), 97-99.

Hartung, C., Lerer, A., Anokwa, Y., Tseng, C., Brunette, W., & Borriello, G. (2010). Open Data Kit: Tools to Build Information Services for Developing Regions. Proceedings of the 4th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (p. 18). ACM.