PDAs for Data Collection in Resource-Poor Settings Project HOPE’s experience
What is a PDA? • PDA = Personal Digital Assistant • Basically, a hand-held computer • Touch screen – use stylus to operate • Weight: 3.8 oz • Memory: 64 MB • New ones have wireless capacity
PDA software for programming • We use the Pocket PC Creation Software • http://www.pocketpccreations.com/ • Many options exist
How it works • Enter data • (View data) • Upload data from PDA to computer • Export to Excel (or other program) for analysis
Steps to using PDA • Develop questionnaire on paper • Test questions • Thoroughly train staff on use of the PDA, including field test • Set up procedures for uploading and backing up data • Set up databases or excel calculation sheets to process and analyze the collected data
Why staff decided to use PDAs • Lots of paperwork • Keep accurate and accessible records • Provide “real-time” data • Technology geeks in key places • Ruled out other alternatives
Advantages • Savings in money, materials, and time • Increased data quality and cleaner data
Advantages • User-friendly and easy to transport • Less intimidating to respondents than multi-page paper questionnaires • Easy transfer of data to database • Not labor intensive • Promotes data utilization • Environmentally friendly
Advantages • Increases capacity of staff: • Technology use • Provides the tools they need to make decisions in the field • Provides the ability to better manage your project and make real-time decisions • Provides an integrated data system which also collects information on the program’s everyday operating activities
Disadvantages • Need human resources to manage and help staff use the PDAs • Equipment requires maintenance and is sensitive to damage or possible theft • Memory capacity is limited • Once the form is designed and linked to the system, changes are difficult
Disadvantages • Data must be downloaded as soon as possible to prevent possible loss of data • In rural areas sometimes difficult to get power to charge battery
Settings • Namibia • Mozambique
Settings • Nicaragua • Guatemala • Thailand
Applications • Baseline & final surveys (child survival KPC; OVC) • HIV/AIDS prevention surveys • Household surveys (economic & health data) • Domestic violence surveys • Quality assessment checklists • Village mapping
Recommendations • Detailed preparation and planning are crucial. • The M&E plan as a whole needs to be clearly developed and detailed enough early in the project in order to design the information system. • Questionnaire needs to be complete in order to create the screens used in the PDAs to collect information.
More recommendations • Feedback & results to data collectors/field staff/beneficiaries is important (don’t let data get entered into machine never to come out again). • Training is essential prior to implementation: • On survey questions (using paper) • Hands-on with instrument in field • Backing up data nightly is critical.
Still more recommendations • Having a technology “champion” at the field level is crucial to sustainability. • Having a technology “champion” at HQ is crucial to supporting the field and usually to getting it started.
Conclusion Project HOPE has found that PDAs can be an effective tool to help programs collect, manage, and efficiently use programmatic data in a variety of challenging resource-poor settings.