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Mobile Data Collection toolbox

2.4 Capacity building considerations

To avoid the use of MDC becoming a nightmare because of lack of knowledge (see examples of issues in the previous section), here are a few suggestions to help build the skills of your staff based on their profiles and levels of knowledge in MDC:

Level of MDC Profile description Potential action plan to improve knowledge
+ Profile that sets up surveys with a simple computerization of a Word document and without real reflexion. Thus, there is no added value to the use of MDC (except that of avoiding a double capture). Few options are available except of a real training from A-Z. Self-learning with documentation / tutorials to set up a survey from A-Z often insufficient for a successfully-run MDC.
++ Profile that is very resourceful with new technologies, that has either self-learned MDC or learned it with the support of a software provider. Manages to do many things, but has technical limitations. Sharing Documentation/specific tutorials / screen videos on difficult aspects to set up without going through a full training, though this can still be useful; Q&A session once per month by an MDC champion to help on improving practices.
+++ Formally trained profile with a good M&E background that knows how to create/adapt an XLSForm using many tips and tricks, and is aware of the importance of extensive testing prior to any deployment to the field. Encourage them to get adequate technical support (i.e. HQ or external hotline) when needed.

The first profile (“+” level) can lead to significant negative consequences on a project because of bad habits or lack of knowledge of good practices. In the best case scenario and only if the survey is simple enough (with a simple frame and analysis plan), it can be switched from paper version to mobile version without any negative consequences. However, sometimes a few bad habits are sufficient to result in data that you cannot analyse (or very difficult to analyse, requiring a significant amount of cleaning), or in incomplete/inadequate data (e.g. omission of important questions etc.). This can result in the necessity to return on the field in order to collect the data again.

The second profile (“++” level) generally designs good quality surveys with significant gain in time and data quality despite the fact that the full potential of MDC is not being used.

The third profile (“+++” level) generally produces very good quality survey with little external assistance, should he/she have sufficient time to design the survey.

Beyond a specific technical training on MDC, a more general training on good practices in terms of design/analysis plan etc. from a Monitoring and Evaluation approach is also a prerequisite for the implementation of a successful project (please note that this applies both for paper or mobile surveys).

MDC requires more training than using a basic paper data collection. Enumerators should learn how to use the smartphone properly (GPS, battery follow-up…) and how to use the MDC app itself (navigation, data entry, sending form, etc.). On top of the basic data collection training, survey managers should learn how to create surveys (online survey builder or XLSForm) and analyze data. Depending on the position training from a few hours to a couple of days may be required.

You may wish to consult the CartONGs materials to train your teams in MDC.