Mobile Data Collection: A Special Round-Up

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Dec 06, 2010

If you're interested in using mobiles and ICTs for data collection, the sheer number of tools and projects can be overwhelming. With so much out there, the need to highlight good projects and consolidate practical information is clear. Here is a handy reference guide to all the data collection information we've accumulated on

The Ultimate Resource Guide

We recently created the Ultimate Resource Guide, an easy-to-use spreadsheet that breaks down our data collection content into clear categories:

  • Web content: A compilation of blog posts, case studies, and regular posts that focuses on data collection.
  • Peer Reviewed Research: A collection of journal articles, research papers, and literature reviews related to mobile data collection.
  • Reports and Evaluations: A matrix of 20+ case studies, broken down by issue, area of practice, target country, and type of evaluation.
  • How-Tos: Instructions for setting up many of the most popular data collection tools, such as ODK, RapidSMS, and EpiCollect.
  • Inventory: An inventory of current data collection projects around the world, compiled through user submissions and MobileActive's research. Thanks to all who contributed!

Comparison Matrix

We developed a comparison matrix assessing ten different mobile data collection tools against a core set of metrics, both technical (platforms, data type collected, required operating systems, security, etc...) and non-technical (such as cost, language, and support). If you want to implement a data collection project, the comparison matrix can help you to determine which tool is best for your project.


There is a great deal of academic and analytic research on mobile data collection. For example, check out these two practical pieces that examine how mobiles and ICTs are used in the field:

  • Our slidecast that examines the effectiveness of PDA-based questionnaires vs. paper questionnaires for collecting health data in Fiji.
  • A literature review that provides an overview of the components, approaches, and techniques used to build mobile phone-accessible, SMS applications for data collection and service delivery.

For more reading, we have dozens of white papers and research articles in the data collection section of our mDirectory.

Field Experimentation, in partnership with UN Global Pulse, recently implemented a multi-country data collection project, using mobile phones to conduct a perception survey that asked citizens in five countries (Uganda, India, Mexico, Ukraine, and Iraq) how they are coping with the economic crisis. There were unique challenges to working in five different countries and having multiple partners, so we summarized our process, methods, and key take-aways in a blog post that may be helpful to others looking to implement large-scale mobile data collection projects. Thanks to our partners and all who participated in the project!


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