Using mobile data collection for monitoring and evaluation can save time and money while increasing accuracy.
Currently, many NGOs in developing countries still use manual methods for collecting, recording and reporting data.
In international development projects a typical data collection process can look like this:
Before the quarterly monitoring report or project evaluation report is due, project staff will prepare paper survey forms and print these. Enumerators will then be sent to remote project locations with a stack of forms that they are expected to fill out. They will need to write all of the information on these forms manually, including any ID numbers or identifying information of the people they are surveying.
Once interviews or questionnaires are complete, staff members will travel back to head office with the paper forms – or in some cases will post these forms. Head office now has a stack of paper questionnaires that they need to enter into a computer in order to use. Often there will be missing data on the forms, or people will have written information on the forms that does not match the data format needed (e.g., people write text responses to a number question).
Data entry is often done into Excel. This is a time consuming process with plenty of room for error (I think we’ve all accidentally deleted cells in Excel without realizing). At this point the data is usually stored on one person’s PC, or it might be stored over several spreadsheets that then have to be combined into one file.
After all this is done, someone still has to figure out how to use the data to create a report. If there are mistakes, or if the data has been recorded in a format that isn’t useful then manual work is required to massage the data into shape.
This doesn’t even include the worst situations where entire boxes of paper surveys or whole spreadsheets of data go missing either because they were accidentally deleted, moved, or remain obscure on someone’s personal computer.
So how can we improve data collection in international development?
One option is to move to mobile data collection and online data storage.
Collecting data with mobile devices allows data to be collected closer to the source. The person that is providing data can enter this directly into the system and there is no need for extra handing of data. Each time data is handled (e.g., data entry, spreadsheet manipulation) there is increased potential for error.
When data is entered into a mobile device, and recorded directly in a central data management system, the potential for error is greatly reduced.
This also reduces the hours spent on manual data entry, and manually combining or manipulating multiple Excel spreadsheets.
In Granity when data is entered and uploaded to the system, it’s immediately available for reporting. This means that head office can see in real time the status of data collection in remote project locations.
If there is no internet connection data can still be collected in the mobile app offline and uploaded when a connection is established.
When it’s time to produce monthly, quarterly or annual Monitoring and Evaluation reports – the data is already there and easy to access. With Granity, reports can be generated directly off the system using centrally located data.
Have you used mobile methods of data collection for a development project? Do you use monitoring and evaluation software? Let us know about your experiences below!
If you’d like to learn more about Granity, or request a free demo then get in contact.