Data collection apps are used to capture information ‘in the field’, in a similar way to the pen and paper method of the past. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been an area that has developed that quickly up until now. Many organizations that could benefit from speedy data acquisition and improved data security are, only now, being switched on to it.
Traditionally data collection in the field or of large sections of the public has been either:
1. Massively time-consuming and expensive, picture large-scale field research projects with hundreds of researchers and focus groups.
2. Horribly inaccurate. There is a point at which online and phone polling just become unreliable. Recent upsets in the US elections, for example, show that polling is not always capable of capturing public sentiment accurately.
Why do we need this type of technology?
- Field research organizations need data collection apps for polling, market research, and exit interviews.
- Public consultation bodies require a better way to consult with the public on projects and manage that feedback easily.
- Local government initiatives demand input from local citizens in order to gain legitimacy and direct the process.
- Community activist organizations want a way to engage with their community by disseminating information but also through capturing community responses.
- Political campaigns are using data collection tools while canvassing to understand voter concerns and amend their campaign messaging.
New technology has helped to address the problem
- Greater penetration of smartphone usage means that data collection apps are now available in most pockets already and do not require expensive capital outlays on mobile devices.
- Better mobile app technology that includes surveys and custom fields are, just now, coming on stream to capture detailed information that actually mimics a real-world interaction between a data collector and a respondent.
- Connected data collection and citizen databases. Again, only recently becoming available, but the way in which collected data is captured and transferred to existing or ad hoc databases is changing the way information can be viewed subsequently. For example, survey responses broke down by geography to see area strongholds or survey responses tracked over time to see changing attitudes.
- Improved data analysis. The need to convert raw data into readable format is something that can be time-consuming to do or perhaps beyond the skillset of the data collector. This is now managed through the data collection tools.
Understanding The Data Once You Have It
1. Understanding large groupings comes down to accurate and repeatable data collection.
2. The ability to see the responses change over time is crucial to seeing patterns develop. Why are responses changing? Did something of significance happen to alter these view? These are all questions you should ask to get a better picture.
3. Being able to segment databases to investigate subsets and make better observations. We all know breaking up large chunks of data into more specific readable groups helps speed up the process as well.
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