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SurveyCTO Toolbox

1 Introduction

SurveyCTO is a generic mobile data collection solution that is also compatible with XLSForms (the standard survey design format used in tools such as ODK, KoboToolbox, ONA, Mobenzi, etc.). To find out more about the most widely used mobile data collection solutions in the industry and help you make an informed choice, you can refer to the latest CartONG benchmarking study conducted in 2021. Depending on your needs, a great number of solutions are available.

We decided to dedicate a toolbox from the Learning Corner of the IM Resource Portal to SurveyCTO, because it is one of the ODK ecosystem’s tools that is remarkable in terms of responsible data management, high-quality approach to data, and allowing basic case tracking.

It is used by many NGOs, sometimes in conjunction with KoboToolbox – which is opted for at organisation-level – and has transferred some of the developed features as open-source in the ODK world. Nonetheless, like many such mobile data collection tools that boast interesting features, this is a paid tool.

To go back to why you may want to use SurveyCTO, the tool was designed with the overall aim of offering, among other things, the opportunity to enhance protection of the data collected, particularly in the case of personal and / or sensitive data. In this sense, the tool is fully compliant with the GDPR (provided you sign a Data Processing Agreement (DPA) with Dobility Inc – the company that owns SurveyCTO). Beyond the purely legal aspect, the idea of SurveyCTO is to stretch as far as possible in “privacy by design”.

This solution also has a case management feature, making it possible to stay in the fairly easy-to-deploy mobile collection environment, whilst reaping the benefits of this type of functionality. It also provides the ability to manage the roles and access of different users more granularly.

Among the benefits of this solution, let us thus mention:

  • The centralised management of users, roles and teams, granting - each user, and according to their role - access or not to certain forms and/or certain functionalities for the same form
  • The possible organisation of surveys into groups/subgroups
  • Case management
  • The ability to encrypt only certain specific fields in a survey, with the encryption of forms
  • The configurations and workflows, to improve the quality of data collected.

Given the aim of this toolbox to remain focused on SurveyCTO features with high added value for Humanitarian Aid and International Development NGOs, we will only present a few here that seem to be particularly distinctive but sometimes hard to grasp. Please feel free to refer to SurveyCTO documentation to learn more about the more common uses of the tool (creation of accounts, of forms, data analysis, etc.) and its other features.

How to use it?

This toolbox has been designed for users not to have to read the document from beginning to end, as the modules are independent. Each section allows you to explore the advanced and high-value features of SurveyCTO.

This toolbox consists of 3 modules:

This toolbox is closely linked to The Mobile Data Collection Toolbox, which provides guidelines, best practices, and tips on mobile data collection.

To start your training journey in data management in general (and not just mobile data collection), you can also consult the Glossary that can be found in the First steps with program data toolbox published by CartONG.


This toolbox was written by CartONG, and has benefited from the many second readings and feedback by Terre des hommes (Tdh).

Created in 2006, CartONG is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) specialised in Information Management whose mission is to put data at the service of humanitarian, development and social action projects. We are dedicated to improving the quality and accountability of field activities, in particular through improved needs assessments and monitoring and evaluation. As a multidisciplinary resource and expertise centre, we support the strategies and operations of our partners. Our teams also support the sector by producing documentation, building capacity and raising awareness of the technical, strategic and ethical challenges of digital technologies.

This toolbox was created as part of the project “Strengthening French-speaking Civil Society Organizations’ (CSOs) program data management” led by CartONG and co-financed by the French Development Agency (AFD). For more information, please refer to the article published on our website or contact us via email.


This publication has benefited from the active contribution and support of Terre des hommes (Tdh), and the French Development Agency (AFD). Nevertheless, the ideas and opinions presented in this toolbox do not necessarily represent those of Terres des hommes and AFD.