Open Data Kit – Smartphone data collection and aggregation

I was able to attend a workshop on Friday at Tulane School of Public Health in New Orleans on Open Data Kit (ODK) which is an open-source suite of tools that helps organizations author, field, and manage mobile data collection solutions.

The data is hosted for free on the ODK server (well for now since no one is ever sure of the evolution of these companies) but the data can easily be hosted on a different server and can be downloaded and saved offline as well. It works with simple excel spreadsheet surveys downloaded from a site like Formhub to android phones with a user friendly format (see pic).
It allows for safeguards like reviewing data collectors work and yet it does not require expensive data plans for smart phones. The data can be collected offline and can be transferred using USBs (although that adds extra steps).
There are also proprietary systems and tools available using this process to take community organizations to the same place, if they feel more comfortable in pursuing a company to help them with a mobile system.
ODK has the possibility to capture data in many more formats than typical surveys relying on paper forms (i.e. text, numbers or single/multiple choice)

Pictures and videos

Capture (e.g. household survey with follow-up)

Display (show picture and ask people to identify / reflect on them

Capture signature (Consent forms)

Bar and QR Code (Anonymous identification)