The Easy Guide to Mobile Data Collection
Since the advent of the cheap smartphone, these devices have been used for an impressive range of purposes, from detecting illegal logging in rainforests to the creation of detailed maps of cities around the world. Everywhere, civil society organisations and other movements are mapping their local areas, whether that be recording the locations of homeless people, answering the question of where to install recycling centres or where stagnant water poses a risk of mosquito proliferation. There is huge potential for strengthening the methodology of these initiatives through mobile data collection.
But where to start? Until recently, there was no beginner-friendly guide covering the methodology of setting up a mobile data collection project. So we got to work, and as part of the final project of the School of Data fellowship of Nirab Pudasaini, lead developer at Kathmandu Living Labs, we can now proudly present The Easy Guide to Mobile Data Collection.
To make understanding the whole process as simple as possible, we divided the guide according to the four key roles which we identified as vital to a mobile data collection project: Project Manager, Survey Designer, Trainer and Data Manager (a single person can be all of them!). Next, we integrated Nirab Pudasaini’s years of field experience; Nirab is currently working on several mobile data collection projects as part of the efforts to rebuild the city of Kathmandu.
An accessible methodology for civil society advocates
This guide is first and foremost about methodology. While heading for the streets with a smartphone and an application might seem easy, a lot of problems can crop up as soon as the project becomes a little bit ambitious. How do you avoid mistakes when entering data in the form? How do you make sure the people in the field don’t get stuck with a software problem? What are the different threats to the quality of the data?
We believe that this guide will be especially useful for civil society organisations or movements wanting to launch mobile data collection projects. While the guide itself doesn’t include details about the sofware, the +Resources page of the dedicated website lists the learning content produced by School of Data. For now, all of it comes from another amazing 2015 School of Data fellow, Sheena Carmel Opulencia-Calub, who has developed a full course around the software suite Kobo Toolbox. Yes, we had great fellows in 2015!
An evolving project
As is the case with all School of Data projects, the guide is fully open-source. We encourage you to send us feedback and file issues if you believe that something could be improved. We have set up a Transifex project as well, allowing anyone to start translating the guide into their language. And finally, we’ll be adding new resources to the guide’s website as soon as we produce more of them.