Better than pen and paper: innovative software improves disaster response in Tanzania

Publicado: 17 agosto 2015 8:53 CET

By David Fogden, IFRC

The Tanzania Red Cross Society is adopting new open source technology to better understand and assist communities affected by disaster. In Shinyanga province, Red Cross volunteers are using mobile phone surveys to gauge the appropriateness of items distributed to people who lost homes and livelihoods during severe hail storms in March 2015.

In June, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) provided training for Red Cross volunteers on the use of the Open Data Kit (ODK), software that facilitates data-collection on mobile devices. Using the ODK software, Red Cross volunteers uploaded surveys onto their mobile phones, and then went house-to-house to interview beneficiaries about the assistance they received. As each survey was completed, volunteers were able to send the results directly from the beneficiary’s doorstep back to the server, where the data was collected and later analyzed.

“Our young volunteers have really embraced this new approach. It’s made the process of collecting data much easier and quicker than using paper and pen,” said Kibari Ramadhan Tawakal, disaster management coordinator at Tanzania Red Cross Society. “Using the mobile phones is exciting for them, and helps increase their confidence when interviewing beneficiaries. It also enables us to collect more consistent data.”

The survey showed that beneficiaries were happy with the quality of the items distributed and were using them regularly. This information is important because it helps the Red Cross to procure the right emergency supplies in future.

The IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) supported the response in Tanzania. Red Cross volunteers in Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Sudan and Zimbabwe have also used ODK to conduct beneficiary surveys following relief distributions. The results of these, and the Tanzania survey, will help IFRC to improve the design of similar relief operations in the future.

IFRC continues to seek opportunities to use new and innovative technologies that can improve Red Cross support for people affected by disasters.