Using Mobile Phones for Data Collection

October 10, 2019 12:00 AM
  • Using Mobile Phones for Data Collection

Mobile phone usage saw an explosive growth in a short spurt of time. Mobile handsets have now made communication easier and users can now be found in even the poorest, most remote areas of the world. For many, mobile devices are their only mode of connection to the internet. According to data represented by Statista, until 2016 an estimated 62.9 percent of the population worldwide owned a mobile and it is now set to reach up to 67 percent by the end of this year. This insight reveals the potential use of mobile devices in creating solutions for the world's most vexing problems.

There are many organizations that are already exploring the use of mobile phones for social impact. Mobile phones are also being considered a viable alternative to traditional tools of large-scale data collection. The concept of utilizing these small and portable devices for capturing data is not new, but the increasing use of mobile phone usage is now attracting enumerators globally. Mobile phones hold immense potential to collect, verify and disseminate information quickly, widely, and at low cost. 

Why are mobile phones ideal for data collection?

Here are 5 characteristic traits of mobile devices that makes it ideal for collecting large scale data: 

  1. It offers multiple functionalities for capturing data such as text, image, audio, video, geolocation etc.

  2. It facilitates SMS, MMS, USSD, Bluetooth, Wireless internet connectivity, etc., which simplifies the transmission of captured data with different devices.

  3. These devices are portable and affordable.

  4. Easily compatible and can collaborate with other devices

  5. It also offers a sufficient amount of storage place for data to store locally on itself.

Benefits of capturing data through mobile phones

Accuracy: Data captured at source through digital devices contains greater accuracy. Digital data reduces transcription errors and transmits over mobile networks that avoid loss of data. It is also said that the data collected through mobile devices are stored and used for future references.

Speed: The collection of data using mobile phones will pace the process of data collection. An active network will allow the instantaneous transmission and storage of data to central systems. Mobile devices also help in representing insights of data quickly and correct errors in real-time. Likewise, organizations can save weeks or months of time using handsets for data collection.

Ubiquity, familiarity, and convenience: Mobile devices are very common to a wide range of audiences. These devices are accessible and convenient Survey Enumerators and Respondents are also familiar and comfortable using the device. So, low training is required for implementation and collection of data using the devices.

Low cost: The costs for setting up the data collection surveys through mobile devices are very low compared to traditional methods. There are different tools available online for free, eg. ODK, JavaRosa, etc.

Combining with other data: Enumerators can capture different sources of data with the help of mobile phones, depending on the features of the device. A mobile can be used to capture text, images, audio, and video which further can be combined to retrieve insights. Mobile devices are also capable of capturing geolocation and automates log data.

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