What is the NOMAD project?

The name explains it all, if you can guess what the acronym “NOMAD” stands for. It’s humanitariaN Operations Mobile Acquisition of Data and the project’s main aim is to improve information management for humanitarian organizations by linking them with the latest mobile data collection technology to improve collection, analysis and management of information. Using mobile phones and other gadgets to collect data helps aid agencies be more efficient, cost effective, information-secure and reliable. The team at NOMAD is made up of humanitarians who are experts in mobile data collection and information management.

In short, the NOMAD project helps aid organizations work smarter and faster to better help the people who need it most.

How does the NOMAD project work?

There are two key aspects of the NOMAD project. The first is a free online “wizard” that links humanitarian organizations with the right mobile data collection tools and technology.

The second aspect of this project is a secondment service, wherein NOMAD team members are made available to deploy as support staff to your organization. They can train staff on how to use the mobile data collection tools or can help out with the data collection process.

The Online Selection Assistant seems interesting. How does it work?

The Online Selection Assistant is a “wizard” that custom selects the right technology and tools for any humanitarian response situation. The user answers a few simple questions about what they’re collecting data on (e.g. is this a one-time survey or a reoccurring assessment?) and after the questions are complete the Assistant indicates the appropriate tools.

When you Subscribe, you also get a comprehensive report that includes a matrix comparing the solutions chosen for you and a description of each one.

NOMAD’s experts have selected 50 mobile data collection services that are each unique and suited for various types of projects, situations and areas of work. Whether you want to assess public health data using the latest app or streamline a weekly paper-and-ink evaluation into a digital format, the Online Selection Assistant will match your organization with the best option.

How do I subscribe?

Before you start the Online Assistant, simply create a username and enter in your email address and a password. You can then download the PDF report that explains how the Assistant arrived as its conclusions for your mobile data collection needs. Also, don’t worry about giving us your email address. We won’t spam you and will keep your data safe. But if you do need additional support, we will be able to contact you with additional information and assistance.

Why is mobile data collection important?

Technology such as mobile phones, apps, mapping and crowdsourcing software and social media evolves almost daily. The role that these resources play in humanitarian affairs continues to grow in value and importance. It helps make assessments more accurate and makes it easier for experts and non-experts to manage data.

In addition, the use of mobile data collection tools is quickly becoming the norm for a large number of humanitarian organizations. Better data analysis has become a priority for the United Nations and humanitarian community as a whole. Adopting such practices early only puts humanitarian organizations ahead of the curve when it comes to overall progress in the sector. Overall, mobile data collection is important because it’s the future of humanitarian information management and central to humanitarian affairs.

All this technology seems complicated. Is it user-friendly?

For the most part, yes. Basic tools and software (like mobile phone apps) are as easy to use as a mobile phone. If it’s complicated, NOMAD can come help teach your staff to use it or can use it themselves to collect your data.

Can I multi-task with these solutions?

Yes, and in many ways it’s quite remarkable. You can collect GPS coordinates, upload data in real-time, send SMS texts AND collect the data you need, using one device and one software programme. You can collect the data you need, and fill out assessment forms quickly and easily. You can ALSO collect additional information to make your data collection more robust. Take GPS coordinates to help with logistics, collect other special information for maps, upload your data in real-time (or near real time) and save it on a secure server so won’t get lost or compromised. Depending on your needs, a mobile data collection solution can be a one-stop shop to streamline information management.

Why is mobile data collection better than traditional methods? Isn’t it cheaper and easier to use a pen and ink approach?

Well, it depends. For a very small-scale, one-time assessment it will certainly be cheaper to use a Bic and a notepad. However, there are several things to be considered. First, the margin of error can be greater when data is collected on paper and then entered into a computer.

The mobile data collection tools, in many instances, can be reused for further assessments. Especially if the assessment is reoccurring, case studies indicate the benefits and cost savings are vast since the devices could be reused.

How does your secondment service work?

NOMAD also offers a hands-on support service, deploying NOMAD team members to your field location. Once you have chosen how to collect the data you need, NOMAD can deploy experienced field personnel to train your organization’s staff on how to use the technology on offer and can support in the data collection process.

NOMAD team members can also help collect and analyze data as part of your team. And if desired, they can deploy to do both of these things.

Using the Online Selection Assistant makes sense, but why chose NOMAD for field support and/or training?

Team members are not only information management (specifically mobile data collection) experts but they are also experienced humanitarians. This means they know what works and what doesn’t in a field setting. They also know how to troubleshoot when things go awry, as they are wont to in a crisis.

How long can I hire a NOMAD team member for?

The length of the deployment depends on the needs of your organization or project, though NOMAD will happily advise. NOMAD will tailor deployment to suit your organisation’s needs, keeping in mind the specific skills and experience that a team member possesses, the situation on the ground and any other relevant factors.

How long should I hire a NOMAD team member for?

Again, this depends on your individual case. Generally speaking, a NOMAD deployment to train should last anywhere from 3 days to a week. For data collection and analysis, NOMAD can second a team member to you for several weeks at a time. Since this service is meant to be case-specific, we would encourage you to contact us to discuss details.

How much does it cost to hire a NOMAD team member?

Since NOMAD aims to provide customized support, it would be best to discuss your needs and discuss costs on a case-to-case basis. The following examples are a few scenarios:

Scenario 1: reoccurring assessments An NGO wants to keep track of the prevalence of mosquitoes in an area where an anti-malaria programme has been implemented. Mosquito nets were distributed and other interventions completed in parts of an urban area. Many aspects of this programme were pilot projects to see what works best for those communities to control the spread of malaria. To understand the impact of this work and to determine (with consideration to cost differentials) which of these pilots are the most useful, a team of local community health workers is deployed every two weeks to check on the prevalence of malaria.

The NGO has no pre-existing database of information on the spread of malaria in the area. It has created an assessment form which contains questions that require the user to take GPS coordinates as part of the overall information collection process. IT staff is on the ground, but do not have devices with which to collect data. According to the Online Selection Assistant, there are four possible solutions:

Imogene Kobo Nokia Open Data Kit

Let’s say the NGO decides on Imogene, since they want to have bi-synchronization that will allow for a roving evaluation team holding on to their own mobiles.

Since they have experienced IT staff that can set up and run servers through remote instruction, they are mainly interested in learning how to code the forms and how to run the system and settle for a full training and some remote support.

Scenario 2: A large-scale, one-time assessment After flash flooding hit parts of an island, aid agencies needed to figure out how many people were affected, how many lost their homes and how many homes were damaged. An NGO is made responsible for conducting an assessment in one of the most affected areas. The assessment will determine funding for the year’s worth of programmes. It has to be conducted quickly and effectively, otherwise funding and the ability of the NGO to respond to those in need will be jeopardized. About 200 people will need to be hired to conduct the assessments and most of them have limited technical skills, but they know the local communities well.

In areas with and without GSM coverage, turnaround time has to be fast. A direct sync from the field and a central office with Internet are required. Data should be synced to the cloud so that multiple organisations can simultaneously access the results for the funding puropses.

According to the Mobile Data Collection Review, Phase 2 tools are most appropriate, but the NGO requires additional training support. NOMAD project will supply an Information Management Officer in country and a home-based Project Manager. preparation, conducting the survey and analysis /visualization /communication. Additionally, the IMO will assist the NGO to assess which satellite communication providers are suitable in-country; and whether additional devices will have to be purchased for the areas without GSM coverage.

When did NOMAD start?

When the French Centre for Space Studies (CNES) called for project submissions in 2009, iMMAP submitted the NOMAD project.

Who is involved in the NOMAD project?

Funded by the French Space Agency, CNES, the NOMAD project was born out of need in the information management sector. Key players in the NOMAD project are iMMAP and CartONG, although partners including Medes, MobileActive, the French Centre for Space Studies – CNES, Auvea Engineering and the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS). The International Organization for Migration, and World Food Programme have been involved in NOMAD’s pilots as well.

With the mapping NGO CartONG and information and knowledge management NGO iMMAP in the lead, NOMAD was created with consultation from a wide variety of humanitarian actors and with substantial involvement from the space and technology sectors from across Europe, America, Africa and elsewhere in the world. Two pilot projects were completed (two phases: two field trips in Haiti and one in Ethiopia), two formal workshops held and many more meetings and brainstorming sessions also helped make NOMAD into what it is today.