Entry for Innovating Mobile Technology for Development Competition

By Jesper Frant, Swami Ganesan and Ashish Mehta Executive Summary The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and their associated development indicators have underscored a significant information gap among development stakeholders and client communities. Lack of data, in combination with out-of-date data, continues to reduce our ability to address issues and monitor the impact of adopted interventions. As Jeffrey Sachs noted in The Lancet, this issue can be mitigated by a broad implementation of mobile technology that reduces the current time lag related to traditional surveying. Our proposed mobile application, “mDATA,” will replace current data collection methods and successfully eliminate the time lag between collection and reporting of data. Adopting the model used by grassroots political organizations, mDATA will integrate mobile data collection (via smartphone app) with a sustainable social enterprise that employs canvassers to gather information on a broad range of development indicators. Initially, mDATA will be used to map the location of and collect information on water projects and access to other local resources and will expand to enable the collection of complex data ranging from maternal mortality and stunting rates to soil fertility and water quality. Waivers will be used when collecting this kind of

sensitive data. mDATA will supply granular and localized data to development practitioners and governments to enable them to intervene and address issues that might otherwise go unnoticed. Current attempts at crowdsourcing development data at scale have failed to provide up-to-date and relevant information. mDATA overcomes challenges to data collection involving literacy and technology adoption experienced by previous applications. By utilizing a business model based on a network of canvassers, mDATA collects baseline data to help achieve the desired efficiencies of scale. mDATA will achieve sustainability by selling data to stakeholders, and by partnering with handset producers, network service providers, and advertising agencies interested in entering the untapped markets. The model’s long-term objective is to eliminate the need for canvassers and evolve into a business similar to Yelp or foursquare, which is supported primarily through advertising revenue, collects data through crowdsourcing and provides the data at no cost to users. System Design and Information Flows
1

The

canvasser

downloads

database while connected to the Internet.
2

In the field, the app finds the location of in the the canvasser using GPS and suggests locations immediate vicinity that the data collector should visit.

3

The canvasser “checks in” at each data point and collects whatever data the app requests. For instance, information about the functionality of the neighborhood water pump.

4

(Optional) App prints a QR code and canvasser attaches it to a conspicuous location near data point allowing others to verify the information. If an Internet connection is available, the QR code could link to browser-based version of the app so that anyone can “check in” even if the app has not been installed.

5

The next time the canvasser has Internet access, the data they collected is uploaded automatically to the cloud and displayed on an interactive map.

6

Most important challenges to the implementation and success of mDATA: hiring literate and qualified canvassers, lack of connectivity and infrastructure, accesses to mapping information, data verification, ability to collect and monetize sensitive date. mDATA will build on the success of mobile applications, such as Episurveyor, ChildCount+ and FormHub, that have been used to collect data in the developing world by enabling canvassers to collect data on multiple projects and across many sectors with the same application. In addition, mDATA will facilitate the process of data collection by streamlining the canvasser's workflow – telling them where to canvass and what data to collect. Technical specification

The application will run on the Android platform as it allows for the ability to connect to the Internet, store a database with data-point information and maps, find the user’s location via GPS, and take photos. The database will be modeled on similar cloudbased databases used by political campaigns to track voters. Problems with energy availability will be overcome by pairing the mobile handset with a solar-panel recharging unit and backup battery.

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