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The ODK Project (Paper)

The ODK Project (Paper)



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Published by: odkteam on Oct 22, 2009
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Published by the IEEE Computer Society
0018-9162/09/$26.00 © 2009 IEEE
Open Source Data Collectionin the Developing World
n the developed world, datais relatively easy to collect. Beit population demographics,embedded traic sensors, oreven popular Internet services, theability to easily tap and synthesizeraw data enables individuals andorganizations to make decisions.Examples o such synthesis includeearthquake sensing via Twitter, tracmapping in Google Maps, and disease-oriented websites like PatientsLikeMeand Google Flu Trends.In the developing world, the lacko reliable inrastructure, ubiquitousconnectivity, and adequate exper-tise makes data collection dicult.Currently, most organizations col-lect data on paper orms despiteineiciencies such as the physicalcollection o completed orms, datatranscription errors, and long delaysbeore the data is available.This problem is exacerbated by thedata’s critical nature. I, or example,you don’t know how ar villagers arerom a stagnant water source, it’s di-cult to know how many mosquitonets to deploy; and, i deploymentinormation isn’t connected tomalaria cases at local clinics, it’simpossible to know whether the netshave made a dierence.The exponential growth o cellphone usage and inrastructure indeveloping regions has aroused greatexcitement or using mobile devicesto address current gaps in data gath-ering. In addition to the variety o data—text, photos, location, audio,video, barcode scans—that canbe gathered, mobile devices haveproven to be dramatically aster atboth collecting the data and makingit available to decision makers. More-over, deploying mobile devices can beless expensive and less error pronethan using pen and paper.
While several systems currentlyexist or simple data collection indeveloping regions, they’re otendiicult to deploy, hard to use,complicated to scale, and rarely cus-tomizable or extensible.Current oerings like PendragonForms, Frontline Forms, and NokiaData Gathering are infexible becausethey’re closed source and based onclosed standards. Others like Java-Rosa, RapidSMS, FrontlineSMS, andEpiHandy are more fexible but pri-marily collect textual data.Moreover, many o the devices thatrun this sotware have limited pro-cessing power and restricted storage,and they oten lack cellular connec-tivity. Input oten comes in the ormo a stylus or numerical keypad,while output must t on minusculescreens—a combination that resultsin poor usability. In addition, devel-opers only have limited access to thephone’s resources, making it dicultto include essential inputs like thephone’s unique identier, GPS loca-tion, or captured photos with the data.There’s also a need to develop moreand better server-side tools. Ideally,these tools should be as service-ori-ented as e-mail has become. In thesame way that consumers no longerneed to congure and maintain mailservers, organizations that collect dataneed “e-mail easy” solutions that letthem ignore the hidden costs o serverinrastructure: power, connectivity,maintenance, security. And just likee-mail, it must be easy to move thedata across various systems.
To help ll this gap, we are devel-oping Open Data Kit (http://code.google.com/p/open-data-kit), a suiteo tools that enables users to collecttheir own rich data. ODK is designedto let users own, visualize, and sharedata without the diculties o settingup and maintaining servers. The toolsare easy to use, deploy, and scale.They also go beyond open source—they’re based on open standards andsupported by a larger community.
Yaw Anokwa, Carl Hartung, Waylon Brunette,and Gaetano Borriello,
University of Washington
Adam Lerer,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
Open Data Kit enables timely and efficient data collection oncell phones, a much-needed service in the developing world.
ODK’s goals are threeold:
make tools modular and cus-tomizable so that they can beeasily composed into appro-priate arrangements or eachdeployment;
exploit open interaces andstandards so that solutions arenot “siloed” into monolithicenterprise-level packages thatare dicult to understand andmaintain; and
establish data collection tools atthe cutting edge o technologyso as to avoid early obsolescenceand make it easier to attract tal-ented developersThanks to support rom Google,we’ve already released a minimumset o tools required or practitionersin the ield to begin collecting richdata sets.ODK Collect, our client on Google’sopen source Android platorm, ren-ders a orm, survey, or algorithm intoa sequence o input prompts thatprovide navigation logic, entry con-straints, and repeating substructures.Forms are based on the World WideWeb Consortium’s XForms standard(and the OpenRosa Consortium’ssubset) and support a wide varietyo data types, including GPS coor-dinates, photos, audio, video, andbarcodes. The data entered is storedon the phone or asynchronoustranser via the General Packet RadioService (GPRS), Wi-Fi, or USB cable toany XForms-compatible server.ODK Aggregate is a ready-to-deploy server that hosts orms andsubmitted results. It aggregates col-lected data and provides standardinteraces to extract data such asspreadsheets, queries, and maps,and integrates with other systems viareal-time Web requests. ODK Aggre-gate is currently implemented onGoogle’s App Engine, enabling usersto avoid the challenges o buildingtheir own reliable and scalable Webservice.ODK Manage allows the remotemanagement o multiple phones.It ensures that appropriate ormsand data iles and applications aredownloaded to each device withoutrequiring user intervention. It alsopresents a dashboard to a supervisoror quickly disseminating updates andbrowsing the status o each phone ina deployment.Although these three tools haveonly been available or download or aew months, uptake has been ast andbroad, as shown in Figure 1. Exam-ples include deorestation monitoringin the Amazon, decision support orpediatrics patients in Tanzania, doc-umenting war crimes in the CentralArican Republic, and monitoringschool attendance in India.In all o these cases, ODK hasenabled workers to be more ei-cient in gathering actionable data.However, the deployment that bestdemonstrates the power o the plat-orm is an HIV treatment program inwestern Kenya.
The Academic Model or thePrevention and Treatment o HIV(AMPATH) is the largest HIV treat-ment program in sub-Saharan Aricaand is Kenya’s most comprehensiveinitiative to combat the virus. In mid-2009, AMPATH began scaling up aHome-Based Counseling and Test-ing (HCT) program to drive downinection rates. The idea behind HCTis simple—to prevent the spreado AIDS, AMPATH counselors mustsurvey, counsel, screen, and testevery one o the two million peoplein their catchment area.Counselors currently attempt tovisit 8-10 households a day, somewith as many as 15 people each tocounsel and test. They carry a PalmPilot, a phone, a GPS unit, HIV tests,medical supplies, and many sheetso paper, and oten must walk manymiles between dwellings.Upon reaching a household, coun-selors record its GPS coordinates andeach inhabitant’s demographic inor-mation and begin the counseling,testing, and screening session. Theyassign every household member abarcoded ID card to track any medicalcare provided by local clinics.In cases where the HIV tests or themalaria and tuberculosis screening
Figure 1.
Examples of ODK deployments include deforestation monitoring in theAmazon, decision support for pediatrics patients in Tanzania, documenting warcrimes in the Central African Republic, and monitoring school attendance in India.

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