Exploring the use of tablets for data collection in N2Africa

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N2Africa generates large volumes of agronomic and survey data. Timely analysis of this data is essential to ensure that on-going activities are properly informed by past findings. This places high demands on both the quality of data and on the speed with which it can be processed. For this reason, we have started to explore the use of tablet devices for data collection in the field. In collaboration with the U.S.-based company Nafundi, we are converting existing data collection forms to easy-to use electronic versions, using software called Open Data Kit (ODK). ODK offers a set of simple tools for creating electronic forms that can help improving the quality of data entry and that may speed up the delivery and processing of information. Instead of having to wait for data to be transferred from paper forms to a computer, finished forms are automatically uploaded to a central data base. In addition, there is the potential for integrating other types of data such as GPS coordinates, photos or video.

During the recent Monitoring and Evaluation meeting held in Wageningen, country coordinators had the opportunity to get their first hands-on experience with the use a tablet device. Participants were introduced to the GPS capabilities of the android-based tablet and learnt how to retrieve, fill and save an electronic survey form. Although the application of ODK enabled tablets is currently limited to a pilot study in Ethiopia, the plan is to expand the use of this technology to other N2Africa countries in the near future. This will be another contribution of N2Africa to the methodological tool box available to on-farm researchers.

Joost van Heerwaarden