In presenting this article to your notice, kindly bare in mind certain truths, which might escape your memory on this subject of data collection. Be pleased to remember that data collection activities dates back to the 10th century and we are by no means challenging its discipline. However, we are questioning the relevance of a data that is collected and recorded by hand over a period of 6 months, transformed into digital format, verified and analyzed into useful information over another period of 8 months and published towards the end of the following year.
A thousand years and counting, you must be very familiar with walk-in visitors by the name of field interviewers from “so and so research” institution. Once admitted, the interviewer is always very swift to pull out the booklet only to be publicly embarrassed in your audience, with the sheaf of pages coming loose, the spine of the book cracked and ripped, with dog-eared corners at the pages duly equipped to start the interview. This experience of embarrassment inadvertently alerts you to the substandard data collection exercise, which threatens the beliefs you hold concerning the integrity of the research institution and the reliability of the survey outcome.
And yet, the explosive growth in the availability of mobile phones in Africa even in some of the poorest, most remote communities of Kenya does not seem to interest these institutions into adopting automation in data collection, management and delivery. You have heard it said before that if the eyes did not see, the hands wouldn’t take it; and so DewCIS Solutions Ltd has seized this opportunity to create innovative mobile data-centric applications that explore how these devices might be used effectively as part of large scale data collection efforts across various sectors including census, health, market trends and general information gathering.
DewCIS has developed a workflow-driven mobile data collection application, named dataNomads, to streamline the process of data collection and synchronization with the online central database. The application is developed on the open source android mobile platform, allowing it to run on a wide range of devices.
One remarkable feature that makes dataNomads app particularly interesting and extremely useful in the field is that it is has been written to work without network coverage. It might not surprise you that most of remote Kenya is still outside the range of most Internet service providers. So, rather than enumerators collecting information continuously to an online database, all the data is collected and stored locally on the device and uploaded to the online repository only when access to Internet connectivity is restored.
As soon as data from field crew is synchronized with the central database, managers are able to review it in an easy to use Google Earth interface. This interface also allows managers to track progress, identify errors or inconsistencies, and provide feedback to field crew in real time. By exploiting the geolocation capability, exact locations and timestamp of data submitted are displayed on the map as thematically rendered icons, and can be updated in real time to reflect the most current state of the data collection effort.
With minimal training, dataNomads application has the potential to reduce field data collection time by over 50% while its validation features significantly reduce errors providing more accurate and reliable information. More importantly, with pen and paper, you are never sure if the surveyor has really gone to the field to collect the data or if he generated fictitious data while seated under the comfort of a sycamore tree.
In today’s rapidly changing markets, business leaders must make critical decisions like whom should they target with their products or which direction should they expand? They often rely on just internal business data, such as last year’s sales analytics. While internal data gives a great picture about how your business performed in the past, it does not reveal how your business will perform in the future. Faced with this dilemma, within the limits of your own resources, the answer may well be hidden in data outside of your internal systems! With our innovative dataNomads mobile application, we promise business leaders immediate access to diverse datasets gathered from the field, to drive highly targeted business decisions.
Surely, the earth has music for those who listen. Save trees by avoiding unnecessary use of paper and care for the environment by keeping it clean. Our contribution therefore, is to collaborate with research organizations and data driven enterprises to adopt innovative mobile data collection technologies that would waste less energy and boost their credibility, save money and shape how their businesses evolves into the future.