Follow us on Twitter


You are here

Over the last 10 years, our team has applied empirical methods of research to capture the opinions and attitudes of individuals in countries affected by war and mass violence. The research methods have included population-based surveys, qualitative studies, focus groups, and ethnography. In 2006, the team started using digital data collection as an enhancement to traditional research methods. Why electronic data collection? 

The benefits of using mobile digital data collection have been significant for our team, but it is important to understand that the move to digital data collection is not a guarantee for quality research and that researchers must carefully conceptualize, plan and implement their research. Research which collects data through face to face interviews, particularly large scale social science population surveys, are excellent candidates for digital data collection. In cases where the sample size is large enough to justify using more than a few enumerators and where surveys are complex (having a large number of questions; having some questions that require or disallow other questions) then the benefits can be significant:

  • Cost effectiveness: The specific costs of a paper survey include: paper purchase, printing, shipping of surveys, and data entry. With PDAs, the specific costs included the PDAs themselves, the cost of programming, and the cost of one additional week of training for the teams. Since PDAs can be reused in subsequent surveys, cost per survey decreases after the initial investment.
  • Easier survey administration: Surveyors report that PDA facilitated the interaction with respondents because they were less cumbersome to use and could be held at eye level, facilitating eye contact with the respondents. Careful display setting also makes it easier for interviewers to read questions and enter results, which results in faster survey administration. 
  • Faster research cycle: With paper-based surveys, implementation of the data collection is relatively rapid once the questionnaire is developed. However, data-entry is a time consuming process that can take several weeks. This results in a long delay between the end of the data collection and the analysis. With digital data collection, once the questionnaire is finalized, it has to be programmed, formatted and tested to be used on the PDAs. However, data are available on a near real-time basis, resulting in a very short delay between data collection and publication of the results.
  • Accuracy
    • KoBo's built in skip logic, branching based on question answers, and data constraints mean that every question is answered in the correct order. Surveyors cannot move to the next question without giving a complete answer that fits within the required constraints, and they can't go off-book by providing illegible or meaningless answers. 
    • Timestamps and GPS-based location stamps mean that the principal investigator knows where and when every survey was collected, as well as how long the survey took. Because there is no data-entry step, the principal investigator can review daily data dumps, looking for errors or irregularities. Flaws in sampling or enumerator's methodology can be fixed in the field, before they become problematic.
  • Ease of Use: PDA can be used for digital data collection by surveyors with no or little computer experience: Using PDAs for data collection is similar to using a cellphone, navigating menus and sending messages. It does not require experience with more complex handling of a computer. As cellphones are increasingly popular, it is easy to recruit interviewers that are comfortable with PDAs.
  • Endless supply: With PDAs, you won't run out of paper supply. The Kbo team further uses solar power and battery charger to ensure that we never tun out of power supply. Cellphones that can run KoBo are becoming increasingly popular , and any device can support thousands of interviews without running out of memory. 
  • Security:Cellphones are ubiquitous and much more discrete than piles of papers. We are working on ways to fully encrypt the data so that they cannot be access by third parties, as well as ways to synchronize the PDAs with a remote database so that data are not lost.


(More details coming soon)