The Rise of Platforms for Data Collection & Analysis: Making the Right Choice
“Development should not only increase the supply of food, medicine or classrooms. It must also bring about long-term change that enables the emotional and cultural fulfillment that all people deserve.” Rabbi Guy Izhak Austrian
Today, big data plays an increasingly important role in the development game, and during a recent online event, Rise of Platforms for Data Collection and Analysis: Making the Right Choice, that the team behind BigFatData recently participated in, we learnt how a number of development agencies are adjusting and moving away from pen and paper towards platforms capable of more efficiently collect and analyze data. The event was organized by NetHope Solutions Centre, and a number of different development agencies made up the panel.
The discussions dealt with data collection and analysis in the field of Monitoring and Evaluation, and the panel answered a range of different questions. Having participated in a few M&E missions in the past, I could relate to some of what was said. More than once have I wondered, while collecting information on the number of babies born in a specific clinic or region, why aren’t such important information digitalized? At one instance a midwife told me that “the numbers in this book are just an estimate, it happens that we forget to update our records when a baby is born.” With such statements, it is clear that data collection tools are crucial for the health sector in many developing countries, as well as for the international development agencies working there.
One of the panelists, Nirinjaka Ramasinjatovo Head of Monitoring and Evaluation, ACDI/VOCA, shared from her experiences from the field. She explained that timely data are critical for development agencies and that such data can be acquired with the help of mobile collection, highlighting that older phones will limit the data. She continued by listing a number of different tools used by international development agencies for data collection and analysis. Some of these tools include Kobo, Datawinners, Magpi, MS PowerBI, CSPro, and CommCare, in regards to the latter, it allows for cloud-based synchronizations where HQ can access the data on the back-end. Finally, she offered a number of helpful tips and advised what to think about when acquiring a data/analysis tool for your organization.
1) Choose your platform dependent on the specific project.
2) Decide on what operating system to use, iOS or Android.
3) Remember that a platform based on open source often means more work for the organization.
4) If you chose to pay for a platform they normally come with support. There are however a number of non-payable platforms where the support is offered by online community groups.
5) Start with the paying option if you are unsure with the capabilities of the staff.
6) Data needs. Do you need GPS, SMS, and IVR (interactive voice response) capabilities?
7) Language, some platforms only use English.
It is no doubt that these tools and tips would be beneficial to the midwife referred to at the beginning of this text. Big data can truly benefit the development sector, and if some of the above-mentioned platforms were used by clinics in the developing world, the maternal health sector, to mention one example, could, in the long run, be drastically improved.
The seminar covered a range of other important aspects to consider when deciding on the right platform for your organization, security, and privacy are two of these. In the next section, Sara will give us an insight in regards to her take-ways from the seminar.