Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Feed the Future goes high-tech, using android tablets for eight population based surveys

The "It's All About M&E" blog series gives you a peek into Feed the Future M&E. This post was written by the Westat FEEDBACK Team.

In September 2012, we traveled to Uganda to test three different tablets for Westat, assessing ease of use, durability, battery life, portability and compatibility with existing data systems. The winning tablet would be used to collect baseline data for Feed the Future’s (FTF) Population Based Surveys (PBS) in Zambia, Malawi, Uganda, Senegal, Tajikistan, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Kenya.

The Google Nexus 7 was chosen over the Windows Fujitsu and HTC Flyer for its easy configuration, short learning curve, easy data entry, easy editing, battery life, portability, data encryption and secure data transfer. Shortly after the test, over 1,000 tablets were purchased for the FTF-FEEDBACK project, configured, and shipped between October and December 2012.

The Google Nexus 7 really made the job easier, because it comprehensively addressed our needs:  

  • Using Open Data Kit (ODK) software, country specific surveys were programmed and downloaded to the tablet before shipment.
  • ODK Backup Tool was used to create daily backups that were instantly copied from the enumerator’s tablets to the supervisor’s tablets using Near Field Communication feature.
  • Kingsoft Office Android app was used to track enumerator activities on Excel spreadsheets.
  • Huawei mobile WI-FI wireless rechargeable routers connected up to five tablets each during data transmission from the supervisor’s’ tablet to the Westat ODK server.

Using the tablets was still challenging due to limited connectivity and electricity. Nonetheless, we succeeded and have some tricks and tips to share.

The tablet batteries had to last throughout the day. Each enumerator conducted two to three interviews per day, each lasting between one to three hours. Tablets were configured to minimize battery drain during data collection by turning airplane mode on, blue-tooth off and WI-FI off.

Each team of four enumerators was assigned to one vehicle, each vehicle equipped with a four-slot splitter charger. During all travel, tablets were turned off and charged. When electricity was available – or by using generators, as done in some countries – eight-outlet power strips were used so none was waiting for a free outlet.

Using tablets was a “first” for these enumerators. They were enthusiastic to be trained on all aspects of using the tablet including settings, functionality, and survey handling. They grasped the concept quickly and were able to operate the tablets independently with minimal technical support. One of our partners summed it up best: “The Tablet is much better than paper! I don’t have to worry about dealing with large volumes of paper or hiring data entry personnel to retype the survey from the paper to the computer.”