The challenges facing NGO’s trying to collect field data are numerous. Picture the scenario of being a first responder into a disaster zone. The area is likely to be without any telecoms coverage other than hotels and hotspots and the situation on the ground will be changing from day to day. In this context, you are having to assess infrastructure and humanitarian problems and capture this data accurately. Not an easy job, and certainly one which requires the use of multiple data collection methods from pen and paper, to mobile to desktop solutions
This guide outlines some of the key challenges for field data collectors in NGO’s and shows how new technology is helping to address them.
You are working almost entirely offline except for possible wifi at hotspots or hotels. The first question that needs to be asked of your data collection tool is, does it work offline? Pen and paper does, but it isn’t sufficient for acute situations. All mobile tools should be screened for this critical capability.
You usually have no database of local citizens to work off. In an ideal world you would have a database of local residents that are mapped to their locations. This would facilitate humanitarian assessment and allow a clear picture of missing persons and casualties. In reality, this type of database is probably not available or is rendered irrelevant when citizens are based in temporary shelters. What is required here is a simple system for building a database from scratch by adding people or places.
You are not sure exactly what your tasks are until you arrive to the area. You are in a dynamic situation where key information may need to be fed in to you. Having a method whereby updated information or instructions specific to your task can be delivered would be invaluable.
Accurate mapping of key sites or people is difficult. Geolocating these points in a disaster zone is critical for follow-up services. If a first responder can do this work as part of their data collection it greatly improves the quality of the response as a whole. Software can now allow people on the ground to set specific locations if they are in coverage or after the fact.
Data collection and collation into reports takes too much time. Reporting on qualitative and quantitative data needs to be handled by a software solution as compiling these reports when out in the field is simply not possible. Setting up the data collection framework so that all data input automatically generates reports is one way to ensure quality feedback. However, there will also be a need to generate more qualitative reports so it is important to develop ‘open’ fields for this.
You have multiple notes on individual cases that need follow-up work. Casework can be in many forms, for example, a follow up with a specific person or family to deliver aid to them. It may involve getting an emergency crew to a particular site to carry out repair works. Whatever the issue, a framework for registering the issues and assigning the case to a team member back at HQ for follow-up is an essential part of any response team.
Similar problems are experienced by NGO field staff in less acute situations and there is a pressing need for reliable data collection and task management tools. Voxcitio cover many of the challenges faced by NGO field staff in a straightforward mobile app and campaign dashboard set up.
Why not set up a call with the team at Voxcitio HQ and we can run through all our functionality with you?