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A Designer And An Engineer Walk Into A... Digital Data Collection Exercise!

There are hundreds of options out there when it comes to digital data collection tools. Finding the right one can be a difficult and time-consuming task. So how do you pick out the best option for you when you’re trying to solve your data collection needs?

To answer this question, two members of the TecSalud team, a designer and an engineer, did an exercise to compare three popular data collection platforms used in global development. We focused on data collection tools that are designed for users with varying technical skills, and can work in remote locations with limited or not Internet connectivity.

The Judges

Angela, our systems engineer, is a programming expert with no prior knowledge of any of the tools. Jose, our designer, has never built a data collection tool nor seen one.

Jose: The Designer

Jose: The Designer

Angela: The Engineer

Angela: The Engineer

The Contenders

We tested the top three digital data collection tools ranked by Kopernik, an Indonesian NGO focused on finding ways to reduce poverty in the last mile. Their ranking system is constantly being updated and is used by many in the industry to review data collection options.

The Test

To give all three tools a fair shot, we decided to build the same data collection form with all of them: the WHO Safe Childbirth Checklist. Used around the world, this checklist is a simple survey instrument that is used to support the delivery of essential maternal and perinatal care practices.

 
https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/199179/WHO_HIS_SDS_2015.26_eng.pdf;jsessionid=49768FEFF606E68018E670378B43BC16?sequence=1
 

The Scoring Criteria

We ranked each tool across five categories, scoring each area between 1 (low) and 5 (high) to help you evaluate products across whatever areas are most important to you. None of the evaluation was edited by other team members or external product users. Angela and Jose’s experiences are a result of being left alone with the assignment !

Category 1: Product Orientation 

The whole point of these tools is to allow people to quickly and easily create and use digital data collection applications. To support users in this process, we evaluated each tools’ user-friendliness, support offerings, and whether they enable users to quickly test applications.

Category 2: Primary Features 

All of these solutions support many types of features, some that are free and some that are on paid plans. Here, we looked at our three favorite features: how much you can do on the free version of the application, formatting and design capabilities, and whether you can link data across the application.

Category 3: Logic 

Logic refers to the way that the application responds to the user by defining certain parameters for questions and answers. The app makes adjustments when answers are given, including whether to show or skip questions and alerts. We scored each platforms’ overall logic capabilities, and how it supports simple and advanced logic.

Category 4: Mobile Experience 

Once your tool is built, the next step is to install it onto a mobile device and start collecting data. We looked at the types of systems the application can run on (iPhones, Android, web, etc.) and our experience using the application on a mobile device.    

Category 5: Data Use and Visualization 

The whole purpose of collecting data is being able to use it and visualize it in ways that can help you make decisions about your program. We evaluated each tool based on their ability to let the user download and visualize data.

The Results

To see the results, click below to read our analysis of each of the three data collection tools.

CommCare

SurveyCTO

Magpi

While we tried to be as objective as possible in our evaluation, the truth is that every project is different and there are many factors involved which are hard to contemplate during this type of exercise. Each tool has its own strengths and features that make them stand out as great options for your data collection needs. The good news is that they all have free versions you can sign up for and try at any time!

Looking for more general resources on the digital development industry? Check out our overview of free digital development resources first!