Sun. Oct 21st, 2018

How to ODK: A Guide to Successful Mobile Surveys

What is ODK?

Open Data Kit is an open source set of mobile survey tools that can be used by individuals and organizations to collect data. The kit consists of 3 tools, namely: ODK Build for building data collection forms; ODK Collect for collecting data on a mobile device; and ODK Aggregate which is the server side where the data is stored and from where it can be extracted “by click of a button” into useful formats for analysis.

ODK completely replaces paper-forms and is designed to be customized for the challenges of governments, multilateral, international, non-government organizations and development practitioners. It works perfectly in challenging environments in spite of geographical remoteness of constituents, limited infrastructure (roads, electricity, and internet).

Unlike the conventional survey techniques, which involve the use of a GPS Unit, a camera and paper-based data collection forms that must later be typed into a computer, ODK enables surveyors/researchers enter information directly onto a mobile device and to upload the information instantly to the server to the central database right from the field.

Since its inception in 2008 as a google.org sponsored sabbatical project, ODK has been deployed heavily by many organizations. In Kenya, for example, Geo.Appsmith has used ODK to collect terabytes of hundreds of thousands of geo-points in various mapping projects in the country.

Built to Scale

ODK is built for robustness and high performance. The project was created by a team of researchers working directly on actual project implementations with end users in mind. The resulting software is practical, flexible, and simple enough to meet real world needs and is designed for horizontal and vertical scalability.

 Flexible for your needs

ODK is designed for easy integration with existing workflows and other software systems. You can easily export data to excel, json or Kml formats for further analysis.

 Free and Open- source

When is ODK Appropriate?

  • When you need a customizable solution
  • When you need a robust solution
  • When you want a scalable solution

When is ODK Not Appropriate?

  • Implementing organization lacks technical and software development expertise
  • Implementing organization cannot procure necessary equipment

 Building a Good Team

When evaluating candidates, experience working with ODK in a similar context is by far the most important quality.

Although ODK software is not complicated in itself no amount of programming talent or mobile experience is more valuable than having experience programming, training, and/or deploying an ODK project with similar requirements in a similar environment. For example, in Kenya Geo.Appsmith stands heads and shoulders above all when it comes to deployment of ODK in a GIS or Mapping context.

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