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Kerry Bruce on Taking Your Data Collection to the Field with Mobile Phone Technology

Hello, I am Kerry Bruce, Director of Results and Measurement at Pact and I’m currently based in Madagascar and support Pact programs in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. In 2012 we started to roll out the use of mobile technology in our programs including evaluation.  This third post in the series on how to get started with mobile phone technology in evaluation focuses on training and taking your data collection to the field.

Hot Tips:

  • When you are training people to use mobile phone technology for evaluation, here are some things that you’ll need to consider:
    • Are the people you are training familiar with mobile phones or will they need significant training and mentoring?  What type of phone will be easiest for them to use?
    • Make sure that people are VERY familiar with the survey instrument and VERY familiar with the phone operation before they get to the field.  Otherwise they spend the entire interview looking at the phone and never look at the person they are interviewing.
    • Make sure respondents understand that data are being entered on the phone, but that data are encrypted and will be stored confidentially.
  • When you go to the field to collect data using mobile technology:
    • Take along a few paper copies of the survey instrument, both as a back-up in case you run out of power or lose the phone, but also to refer to during questionnaire administration.
    • If a question is not working or needs to be changed this can be done even as the survey is being conducted.  A change is made on the central server and data collectors can be notified via SMS or phone to upload the newest version of the survey.  This is best done at the end of the day.  This is very handy for dealing with troublesome questions that made it through pre-testing and piloting.

Lesson Learned:phone

  • Mobile technology will not improve your survey design or instrument.  It will improve the timeliness and accuracy of your data collection, but it won’t magically insert a missing variable.
  • The structure of field supervision changes with mobile technology and happens best from a central location with a strong internet connection.  Supervisors check the data as it comes in and can call data collectors directly with feedback while they are still in the field if there is an issue.

Rad Resources:

Online mobile technology training for a variety of uses is available from TechChange.

A great training resource is available from the CLEAR Initiative.

More information about using mobile phones for data collection is available from the BetterEvaluation page on Mobile Data Collection.

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