World Vision Australia conducted an side by side evaluation of the cost of collecting data using paper forms compared to the cost of using Smap Task. The results are summarised below:
- Comparison of datasets revealed that data collected with mobile phones were more accurate, than paper-based due to strict data validation processes that were implemented.
- All data collected by mobile phones were readily available in electronic format and could be accessed for analysis once uploaded to the survey server. All paper surveys needed to be entered which increased entry mistakes and delayed availability of data.
- It took half a day to train enumerators to use the mobile phone system compare to 2 days for paper surveys.
- The cost of data gathering was minimal compared to paper based as there was no need to hire staff for data entry at the end of surveys.
- 90% of interviewees said using mobile phones for survey was quicker than traditional pen and paper; and 95% will be happy to be interviewed with mobile phones in the future.
Overall the cost of using the mobile phones was 30% less than the cost of using paper.
Its easy to get started surveying:
- A server for your project or organisation can be rapidly started as an Amazon Web Server Instance.
- Phones can be purchased for under $100.
- Training of enumerators is straightforward. It has been done in the half an hour before the enumerators left to go to the field for a successful survey.
- Surveys can be quickly tweaked after training and testing with the enumerators. Something that is much harder to do with paper surveys
Hence the technology does not need to be a constraint on how quickly the survey can be organised and the team can focus on design of the survey to meet the project need. Having said all this some attention to the IT side of the survey will pay dividends. For example:
- Selecting phones that have the languages, and language fonts that the survey will use. Alternatively allowing time to install custom fonts
- During the design of the survey it should be tested on a mobile phone. There are differences between what might be a good looking survey on a paper document and how that survey can, or should, look on the phone. This also avoids a last minute rush to convert a paper form to a mobile phone based form
- Training on the use of the mobile phone based application should take at least 2 hours and up to half a day. Ideally it should be incorporated into general training on survey techniques.
- Time should be allocated to translate the survey into the language that will be used by the enumerators
Another time saver is that once surveys have been completed then the templates can be re-used on the next survey, perhaps with minor changes or just translation into a new language.