Have you ever wondered how mobile solutions can be used by humanitarian and development practitioners or how MDC tools can actually improve the delivery of humanitarian aid? Have you also heard about the most recent applications of mobile devices and software in some of the most remote locations on Earth affected by conflict, hunger or natural disasters?
To find answers to those and similar questions one should have attended the NOMAD Workshop. The event took place on 15th -17th May, at the French Space Agency (CNES) headquarters in Paris. The NOMAD Workshop was hosted by a team of humanitarian practitioners with expertise in GIS mapping and information management from the French humanitarian organizations iMMAP and CartONG. The organizers did their best and managed to link MDC tool providers with the humanitarian and international development community. The providers had an opportunity to showcase their mobile solutions with which to foster decision making, data collection and tracking, as well as project monitoring and evaluation while the aid agencies and organizations present could share some real-life applications of mobile technologies in their operations.
This article attempts to describe the mobile data collection applications which were presented by the solution providers during the NOMAD Workshop. The participants, additionally, got a chance to see hands-on demonstrations, ask questions and test the solution to decide which applications would best suit their needs. We hope the descriptions below may likewise help you gain more insight into the mobile data technologies which can be deployed for more effective and efficient aid provision.
Fusion – presented by David Costello and Kieran O’Toole – is a mobile application platform which combines mobile and cloud technologies with the security and track record of an application that has been well proven in the field. This cloud-based platform, developed by PSI Mobile, consists of several modules dedicated specifically to NGOs which conduct field-based development programmes. As a data gathering application it allows users to conduct surveys, audits and inspection checklists, generate management reports and export the data gathered to statistical analysis applications. The data captured in remote areas can be made available to office managers within minutes of collection. The Fusion App has been deployed in several countries worldwide from Haiti to the Philippines. A prime example of a Fusion-based project is a conservation agriculture project conducted by Concern WorldWide which allowed the faster and more efficient gathering of data about farmers carrying out conservation farming methods such as land preparation, seeding and harvesting. Another example is the Sierra Leone cholera emergency response where the solution was used to design surveys and capture data about a cholera outbreak to identify precise intervention actions.
The OpenXdata – presented by Jørn Klungsøyr – is an open-source, community-based system that can meet a wide-range of data collection needs. It supports common data types like text, dates, lists, numbers, GPS, Barcode and Multimedia. The solution has been designed to support data acquisition in resource-constrained areas and handles form-based data collection both with mobile devices and web forms (online and offline). OpenXdata supports low-cost java-enabled cell phones ($30), mid-range phones or any device with a modern web-browser (offline or online) and has a track record of applications in development work and research that include healthcare, education, agriculture, humanitarian work and more. Among the solutions built on the OpenXdata, one can find Capture or OpenMRS. Capture is used by NGOs to capture data on community outreach, treatment literacy, HIV counselling and testing, media programmes, training, and other HIV-related activities. Clients with access to such data can monitor and evaluate their programs in real time, manage their co-workers and report to funders with greater efficiency. OpenMRS is an electronic medical record system (EMR), designed for use in the developing world. It is a software platform and a reference application which supports health care delivery and research in an extremely wide variety of contexts globally.