Why Mobile Data Collection Works: An Interview With George Muammar, World Food Programme

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on May 07, 2011

This podcast originally appeared in an edited form on The World Food Programme's blog.

The collection and analysis of information from the field is a big part of ensuring that programs are working correctly. Recently, journalist Justin Smith interviewed George Mu'ammar of the World Food Programme's Vulnerability Assessment and Mapping Unit on how his department uses mobile technology to collect data. Listen to the podcast below:

George Muammar World Food Programme Interview by mobileactive

Interview with George Mu'ammar by MobileActive.org

The Vulnerability and Assessment Mapping Unit collects data to both assess food security through gathering baseline information, and through collecting data on food availability after disasters and conflicts. In the interview, Mu'ammar discusses the use of both PDAs and mobile phones for data collection, and why both devices are useful for different types of assessment. The PDAs are primarily used for long-form surveys and large data sets (such as household interviews that can have thousands of questions), while mobile phones are used to transmit smaller data sets (such as information on market prices of food and nutritional data) and for long-term monitoring (so that field workers can send in a steady stream of short updates to create a baseline data set without having to come in from the field).

Mu'ammar also explains in the interview why using mobile devices for data collection is such an improvement over traditional pen and paper methods; he explains that the guided questions and strict parameters of the questionnaires cut down on user error, and that data is more easily sent to central locations for analysis. He adds that data collection occurs 20 to 30% faster through the use of mobile devices (compared to paper and pencil methods), and that statistical analysis of that data now takes hours rather than weeks.

Check out the World Food Programme's website for an abbreviated transcript of the podcast.

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