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[Report] What Can Mobile Do For You? A Report on How to Use Mobile in Development

BY the engine room | Wednesday, July 2 2014

This report gives a broad, general overview of the current (2014) status of mobile data collection in development. It is meant to be an entry point, and a way for readers to acquaint themselves with the possibilities of mobile data collection in technical and practical terms. The intended audiences are organizations and activists thinking about their first mobile project, as well as anyone interested in understanding how mobile data collection works, what it means for the development sector (how it helps, how it’s used, and how it shapes its dynamics), what are the main possibilities and where to go for more information.

The document focuses on the integration of mobile tools into processes like data collection and dissemination in the fields of advocacy and development. Smartphones, GPS trackers and other pocket-size gadgets can provide powerful solutions for collecting data in far flung communities with poor connectivity or bad infrastructure. They can be very helpful for deploying surveys in remote areas, taking stock of supplies, communicating inventories and patient data through simple and cheap SMS (especially when the alternative would be hours of walking). They can be used for election monitoring, real-time reporting of corruption and government inefficiency, or for sharing the latest market prices with fellow farmers. In short, having a device in your pocket that can instantaneously connect you with networks and sources of information is as powerful as it sounds. A number of organizations have spent the better part of the last decade to find better and more robust ways of capitalizing on this opportunity to improve livelihoods and empower individuals.

The first part of the report presents an overview of questions to ask and considerations to make before embarking in a mobile data collection process. It builds on previous research and technical considerations (types of tools, learning curves, etc).

The second part tells four stories of projects with mobile technologies at their core, showcases technology decisions and resulting impact. For every story, there is a summary box with the main aspects and learning points of the technical implementation.

The third part draws conclusions, and gives recommendations for resources and communities that can provide you with more in-depth knowledge about integrating mobile technology.

The report is available on the engine room website, here.

It is also available at Scribd

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