Help Channel Burundi (HCB) needed a way to collect field data about the food aid projects it was running in remote regions of Burundi as part of a program to eradicate hunger in the second hungriest country in the world. However, the organization faced several challenges: Burundi suffers from a 60% literacy rate and also ranks 189th and 159th in the world for web and telephone connectivity. All together, these made traditional methods of data collection virtually impossible. A solution had to be found -- research on the impact of food aid was critically important to HCB’s mission in order to help them understand the effectiveness of their programs as well as to make sense of the cultural forces at play after 15 years of civil war.
In short, HCB had the following needs:
Robot Blimp Industries (RBI) had already been developing data collection software for the iPhone. When presented with the problem by HCB, RBI was able to adapt its existing data collection technology to the specific needs of field research, creating EthnoCorder, a powerful mobile system for conducting rich multimedia surveys on the iPhone.
In field research situations iPhones can be an efficient and compelling platform for capturing information and recording audio and video responses. Since all data is stored directly in a database, this eliminates the need for transcription and post-field data entry. Additionally, no Internet connection is required. RBI brought all this together in EthnoCorder, making it possible to gather reliable, high quality data rapidly in remote or under-developed locations.
HCB was able to immediately deploy EthnoCorder in the field and begin collecting data in the most remote regions of Burundi. HCB researchers effortlessly used EthnoCorder's simple drag and drop What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) form designer to quickly convert existing paper surveys into electronic surveys on the iPhone without prior design or technical experience. They also incorporated existing recorded interviews as part of the survey, allowing them to use the words of locals as part of the information gathering process.
Interviewee's reactions were then recorded and tagged for content giving them exceptionally rich results that can be used in a variety of ways. Finally, every survey had geo-location information embedded in it, giving HCB the ability to easily categorize and analyze data by region.
The introduction of EthnoCorder into HCB's data collection practices made it possible to collect standardized data, rich with multimedia content, incredibly quickly. This has resulted in less data error and a greater understanding of their target populations helping HCB fulfill their mission to eradicate hunger.