Data collecting is a vital part of research for development work, as the results inform good decision making.
Paper based system have been used to collect data in the field and for monitoring and evaluation of projects in rural areas. However, this approach is time consuming, labour intensive, error prone that may affect productivity and accuracy and it is very expensive in the long run.
Information and communication technologies (ICT) are now being used widely with significant positive results to perform these tasks in agricultural development projects.
The recent ‘ict4ag’ conference organised by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and other organizations, brought experts together to share their experiences and discuss ways in which they were using ICTs, smart phones, tablets, applications and software – to collect data in the field, and to enhance agricultural developments. Several examples of the apps were also showcased in the discussion, among those:
Open Data Kit (ODK) was presented by Absolomon Kihara of the International livestock Research Institute (ILRI).ODK is a free and open-source set of tools which help organizations author, field, and manage mobile data collection solutions.
ODK provides solution for users to:
- Build a data collection form or survey
- 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.
Absolomon said that ILRI has been using traditional paper-based system to collect data from the field but recently started investigating ways in which data capture and analysis can be automated.
“ODK has really helped us in our data collection; it helped us to migrate from paper based to smart phone data collection, to reduce the challenges of using paper based systems.”
It provides quality data, no transcription error, complete survey, cuts the time of transcription and having data collection instantaneously. Absolomon concluded his presentation by saying, we found there is much more to gain from ODK than paper based systems.