Embracing new technology for data collection in Zambia

تم النشر: 24 أكتوبر 2014 15:05 CET

Erin Law, IFRC

Survey data is invaluable to the work of National Red Cross Societies. From the onset it can be used to plan a programme, monitor its progress, and collect information on how a project may have helped the people it intended to reach. But for people who have done a household survey, the initial excitement about the volume of data that has been collected is quickly tempered by the mountains of paper surveys that need to be analyzed.  Once completed surveys are collected from trained enumerators, the labourious task of entering each survey form into data analysis software begins. The process is slow and mistakes in data collection are picked up, but too late for correction. The results of the analysis may not be available for months.

“When we want to monitor and evaluate a project, we need quality data, but this is often a challenge due to time restraints. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is looking to technology to help us remove some of the barriers to good data collection and analysis,” says Maartje Holdorp, regional planning, monitoring and evaluation officer for the IFRC in southern Africa.

In Zambia, new technology is being used to ease the data collection process. The Rapid Mobile Phone-based survey (RAMP), allows surveys to be done remotely using software that allows data to be uploaded onto mobile phones or tablets. Trained enumerators go into the field, collecting data on these devices. As each survey is completed in the field, it is fed back to a server that allows real time viewing of the data being collected. Errors are picked up quickly. Analysis can begin. And best of all, there are no mountains of paper to contend with.

For the past week, the Netherlands Red Cross Society, with additional support from the IFRC southern Africa regional office, has been training enumerators in the use of tablets to ready them for a baseline survey. This survey will help the Zambia Red Cross Society to understand the community they are working in by investigating the water and sanitation challenges and HIV risks the community faces. The survey will be repeated to see the effectiveness of Zambia Red Cross Society activities.

Reinout van Santen is the planning, monitoring and evaluation officer with the Netherlands Red Cross Society. For the last few weeks, he has been training enumerators in Malawi and Zambia, and is excited about the potential of this technology. “RAMP is going to change the way we collect data for National Red Cross Societies around the world. Many people are wary of this type of technology, worried that people in the communities we serve cannot use it. In practice, I find that with some basic training, we have people from all backgrounds being able to use the technology in the field,” he says.

The training in Zambia is supported by generous donations from the Dutch public to the Netherlands Red Cross Society through 3fm Serious Request. The baseline survey, soon to be implemented in Mongu, Zambia, will be funded by the OPEC Fund for International Development as part of a grant supporting water and sanitation and HIV prevention in Zambia.