Case Study

Mobile Data Collection Case Study

In November 2010 CartONG conducted a survey to better understand the use of mobile data collection in the humanitarian sector. The full report can be found here though the findings are listed below.

Mobile Data Collection in the Humanitarian Context (NOMAD)

Research, conclusions, solutions


This research is comprised of data from a survey launched on 08/11/2010, combined with interviews and web research conducted from October to December 2010.

Survey Distribution

Note: The Mobile Active GoogleGroup, Sig-a-lettre and ALNAP were posted later than the others – in the last week of November 2011 – so have not contributed much to the number of responses you see here.

Highlights from the Findings

Main Line of Work



About 53% of the respondents are currently collecting data using paper form, mainly because it is assumed to be cheaper and requires less training for collectors. One organisation also pointed out that it is safer to use paper and technological limitations in remote areas as well as faster deployment with standardized paper forms were cited by two others. On the other hand, 78 % of the respondents using paper require the data to be recorded in the system within two days, which can be a challenging undertaking for data entry staff.



Renting does not seem to be the best option, because it is assumed that the transport cost, delay, rent and other costs would not be justifiable in time. Only 13% would be interested in this. Renting can be potentially interesting for those conducting a one-time survey. For those who regularly conduct surveys, 10,000 Euros is considered to be the maximum amount they will be ready to invest.

Data Collection


One particular respondent that owned the technology used in the mobile data collection, noted that their technology is not used to its full potential. They said they would prefer to train staff on how to use the resources they have rather than invest in new systems.


Many organisations assume that the investment both in technical and human resources would be difficult to justify and finance. This may be the case for some small-scale, one-time data collection exercises. In many cases, however, the benefits are significant. Immediate data collection that saves time and human resources, the value of collecting GPS coordinates, immediate data analysis, and information security. Case studies indicate that for organisations conducting many assessments, it’s actually beneficial to buy the technology outright – both in terms of time and cost. Mobile data collection gadgets can be used and re-used, reducing overhead for each additional data collection exercise.