Mobile Data Collection Technologies

Using mobile phones in data collection:

Data collection has always been an integral part of development work. In the past, this task was performed with paper and pen which made it prone to error, difficult to conduct on a large scale, and high in transaction costs.
Mobile data collection (MDC) tools and technologies such as mobile devices and software that allow users to create surveys, collect, manage and upload data to storage facilities in real-time, have reduced the conventional challenges associated with remote data collection.

Data Transmission Means

Data input or captured into phones may be transmitted or shared in many ways Where mobile connectivity is not available, data can be stored on the phone and transmitted later once a phone is within sufficient range of a cell tower.

Benefits of Mobile Data Collection

Common Mobile Data Collection Tools

The Workflow

Mobile Data Collection workflow-tech-for-development

Capturing data offline

Data collection apps are mobile applications that make it possible to collect data from a smartphone, tablet or iPad. Offline forms allow researchers that are working in places with unreliable internet to store a backup of their data on their mobile device and upload it once an internet connection is available.

Case Management vs Cross-sectional data collection

>. Cross-sectional

Research that involves recording data at a single one point in time, a so-called, snapshot of a population is a cross-sectional study. This data is only collected once. Examples of cross-sectional studies are patient registries or household surveys.

>. Case Management

Case management is the ability to create entities and follow-up on them across time. A case can be anything — patient, beneficiary, location, program or facility. Case management saves time and improves data quality in longitudinal research because it eliminates the need to re-enter baseline data each time the same subject is assessed.

Mobile Data Collection Tools

1. Open Data Kit (Android)


Open Data Kit (ODK) is open-source software for collecting, managing and using data in resource-constrained environments. The goal of ODK is to offer open-source and standards-based tools which are easy to try, easy to use, easy to modify and easy to scale (ODK website).

The Open Data Kit community offers two suites of software;

ODK – This suite of software provides access to simple tools that have a proven history of large scale deployment for mobile data recording. Used in common cases.

ODK-X – This suite of software offers tools for more complex workflows. For this software, Javascript customisation allows a very flexible suite which further features longitudinal data entry, bi-directional synchronization, and on-device data management.


2. KoBoToolbox (Android & Web)


KoBoToolbox is a free, open-source tool for mobile data gathering developed by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. KoBo Toolbox is widely used for data entry in humanitarian organizations like the International Rescue Committee (IRC), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Save the Children.


3. REDcap (Android, iOS & Web)


REDCap is a secure electronic data capture (EDC) solution (web, smartphone, tablet and iPad) for building electronic case report forms and managing databases.

Non-profit organizations can join the REDcap consortium and receive a free license of the software, which allows them to install and manage REDcap on their own IT infrastructure.


4. Magpi (Android & iOS)


Magpi is a mobile data recording app that allows users to create mobile forms both on and offline within minutes. Its use extends through the health, agriculture, environment and industry sectors, where rapid and low-cost conduction of mobile surveys enables scalable and straightforward research.


5. ONA (Android)


Ona partners with NGOs, governments and UN agencies to build great solutions that support ever greater outcomes.


6. Survey CTO (Android & Web)


Survey CTO is a reliable, secure and scalable mobile data collection app for researchers and professionals. This app expanded on the Open Data Kit (ODK) software to increase its scale, utility and power.


7. CS Entry and CSro (Android & Web)

CSEntry collects data for surveys created by the free Census and Survey Processing System (CSPro) suite of data processing tools. CSEntry is used for computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) on Android phones and tablets.


8. CommCare (Android & Web)


CommCare is a world-class data collection platform developed by Dimagi and widely adopted by international organizations such as Partners in Health, International Rescue Committee (IRC) and USAID.

The platform supports both cross-sectional and longitudinal data and is geared towards humanitarian and medical data gathering. CommCare stands out for its comprehensive onboarding support with the possibility for on-site training.



Mobile data collection apps are becoming integral to secure, reliable and scalable research. The efficiency and dependability of these mobile survey apps, even in offline settings, open doors to new research possibilities. It begins with the freedom and adaptability of designing research-specific forms that work even in the most challenging environments; it continues with secure and collaborative data entry, and ends with faster data analysis and visualisation.

Ready to launch a new study soon using these technologies?

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