Course outline: mobile data collection with ODK
Decades ago, the use of papers and pen was a painstaking and very expensive effort to collect data. Most of us have experienced paper forms getting wet or damaged, or receiving paper forms that were barely answered. But as the age of smartphones and tablets arrived, mobile-based data collection technologies have also gained a huge following. The use mobile data collection tools has also improved the conduct of surveys and assessments. Some of the advantages of using mobile data collection are:
- Most people are using smartphones for SMS messaging and have access to mobile data connection. According to Wikipedia, The Philippines is currently 12th across the world with the most number of cellphones, with more than 100 million cellphones which is more than our population!
- In the absence of laptops and desktop computers, smartphones are cheaper and easier to use.
- Mobile-based data collection compared with the use of paper forms, lessens the risk of losing the data when paper forms are damaged or lost.
One of the tools that was frequently used by information managers is the Open Data Kit (ODK). This was first introduced in the Philippines during the Typhoon Pablo response in 2011 for project monitoring. In the next emergency responses, ODK has been used to conduct one-off surveys and rapid needs assessments during and directly following disasters. While there is a huge variety of online and offline data collection tools, ODK has gained a lot of users because it is free, open source, easy to use and can be used both offline and online. Since ODK is a free and open source set of tools which help organizations author, field, and manage mobile data collection solutions, ODK in itself has evolved in several platforms and formats such as Kobo Toolbox which I prefer to use, GeoODK, KLL Collect, Formhub, Enketo, each one seeking to customize the use of ODK according to their own needs.
ODK provides an out-of-the-box solution for users to:
- Build a data collection form or survey (XLSForm is recommended for larger forms);
- Collect the data on a mobile device and send it to a server; and
- Aggregate the collected data on a server and extract it in useful formats.
This will be a basic course using Kobo Toolbox as one of the many platforms in which ODK forms are built, collected and aggregated for better data collection and management. According to Kobo Toolbox, acknowledging that many agencies are already using ODK, a de facto open source standard for mobile data collection, KoBo Toolbox is fully compatible and interchangeable with ODK but delivers more functionality such as an easy-to-use formbuilder, question libraries and integrated data management. It also integrates other open-source ODK-based developments such as formhub and Enketo. Kobo Toolbox can be used online and offline. You can share the data and monitor submissions together with other users and it offers UNLIMITED use for humanitarian actors.
- basic understanding of Excel
- a good smartphone using Android 4.0 with at least 1 gb of disk space
- a good understanding on how to design a survey questionnaire
- a Kobo Toolbox account (you can create one here)
Module 4: Managing your data using Kobo Toolbox