Comparing Mobile Data Collection Tools

Posted by NateBarthel on Dec 03, 2010

We recently developed a comparison of mobile data collection tools. Thank you to all of you who provided valuable feedback. Here's what's been added and changed from the draft version:

  • We added two tools: GeoChat and GATHERdata.
  • Added FrontlineForms to the FrontlineSMS description.
  • Three fields have been added to all tools: form question and logic overview, native data analysis/reports, and data export.
  • Integrated comments on existing material into the spreadsheet.

We'll add and revise tools regularly. Please comment and tell us what's missing! 


The matrix is aimed at program managers, or those in similar roles, whose responsibility it is to choose the best mobile data collection technology for their project.

It's aimed at decision making process to help you narrow the list of potential tools.  For example, if you need to collect rich data, you could exclude those tools which use only SMS.  Likewise, if you need a solution that is ‘ready to go’ you might decide to avoid those that require more upfront custom development.

What We Compared

The categories featured here were determined by reviewing work done by the WC3 and earlier efforts by, and validated with lots of interviews with practioners with deep expertise in mobile data collection.  We can't, obviously, provide complete coverage of every possible metric, but are greatest importance to the decision maker. We also purposefully excluded those categories which are highly subjective, notably usability, as this would require an entirely different means of assessment.

The software products were selected based on three basic reasons: that they are mobile data collection technologies, that they have been implemented in developing countries, and that they are generally deployable on standard wireless network configurations. These products represent a wide variety of architectures and capabilities, and represent both open source and proprietary technologies.

You might also want to review this How-To, Mobile Phones for Data Collection.

Nate Barthel is a consultant to

Photo of mobile data collectors for wholesale agricultural products prices: LIRNEasia

Another tool . . .


Here's another tool that we've been using here in Burundi, it was created to address our need to incorporate multimedia and ethnographic methods into our mobile data collection and use.  It addresses many of the gaps left by other solutions:




Nathan Horst Evaluation Consultant Senior PMEL Advisor Help Channel Burundi Bujumbura

Adding another data collection tool

Hi Nate,


  Canvas is another tool that you can use, would be great if you can include it in your spreadsheet.  You can find it at

Two examples of how easy it is to use can be found at:

Build a data colleciton app for BlackBerry in 5 minutes


Build an Android Signature Capture Application


Hope this helps some,


ODK-based tool

Jason - send us some more info or add it in a comment (we are at or use the contact form) and we'll take a close look at it!  Thanks!

Have a great weekend,


Adding another data collection tool


We've built a data collection tool for the field based on ODK that others could use and mitigate some of the development costs associated with using ODK.  Is it possible to have this added to your comparison?



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