Implementing Innovative Technology to Collect Data and Monitor Programs

April 23, 2014

uganda2.nodeHunger Project programs operate in rural and oftentimes isolated communities. Monitoring our work and collecting high quality, accurate information about our on-the-ground activities requires substantial resources and time.

To make this process more efficient, we have transitioned from paper-based systems to mobile-based data collection in some of our program areas.

To conduct mobile-based surveys, The Hunger Project utilizes iFormBuilder a “universal, cloud based mobile data collection platform helping customers around the globe collect data on their mobile devices.”

So what have we learned?

  1. An evaluation using mobile data collection saves nearly $1,000 in data entry and cleaning fees ― the device pays for itself in the first study. For a typical evaluation exercise, comprising a 500 household survey and a handful of key informant interviews, at least five clerks are needed for a week for data entry and cleaning, at a cost of approximately $750+. Data collection devices are priced between $170 and $220, meaning in one survey exercise, enough savings are generated to pay for at least four devices.
  2. Using cutting-edge mobile technology leads to a lower number of surveys being returned incomplete, inaccurate or unusable to our staff. The data seamlessly uploads to a database, using built-in survey checks and logic – such as checking for missing decimals, misplaced commas or mathematical errors. This technology also allows for faster number crunching and prevents enumerators from skipping or providing out-of-the ordinary responses. It thus reduces the need to oversample, and we spend less time cleaning the data on the backend.
  3. Eliminating the need for data entry means that study managers are able to quickly review initial data and make decisions about the need to return to the field. Sometimes, data returns from a survey that creates further questions, usually in the form of additional focus group discussions or interviews for clarification. Using mobile data collection, surveyors do not have to wait for the data to be entered (taking upwards of one week for many studies), but can quickly review information and look for emerging trends as the mobile devices are synced to the global database. This allows the surveyors to make quick decisions with teams already mobilized in the field to respond to additional requests or needs to complete a study.

In summary, using mobile-based technology to conduct household surveys and other data points makes for more accurate reporting and more time-sensitive, easier to access, and faster-to-use results. Moreover, it allows The Hunger Project to more quickly fulfill its commitment to a participatory M&E system, where communities can receive timely presentations and feedback with evaluation results.

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