Mobile Data Fact Sheet

Mobile data flips traditional models of development on their head.
Mobile data enables an adaptive, iterative approach to program delivery that is sensitive to real-time performance metrics and citizen feedback. It empowers decision makers to constantly adjust their programs based on what is and isn’t working, turning donor beneficiaries into clients and turning recipients of goods and services into producers and co-collaborators. Not only can programs see results in real-time, mobile tools can rapidly clean, aggregate, and share information, eliminate errors associated with collecting and transcribing paper forms, and perform powerful analysis and visualization. This empowers donors, governments, and civil society to make decisions based on real-time information and gives voice to citizens who for years have been cut from the conversation that shapes  their future.

The Technologies

Even the simplest phone can gather data via SMS messaging and interactive voice response (IVR), while older-model feature phones can collect data via electronic forms.
These more sophisticated devices enable greater functionality like capturing GPS locations and better usability with large touch screens, while still serving as portable tools for conducting surveys, taking photos and videos, and playing and recording audio.
Commercially available sensors can record environmental conditions and performance of applications like water pumps, latrines, and cook stoves. This data can be relayed over cell phone networks and analyzed online to remotely  monitor applications and adjust programs.

Safety and Reach in Afghanistan

Across countries where USAID works, sending staff to the field is difficult, expensive, and can raise safety concerns. This challenge requires USAID to deploy a variety of tools including new uses of mobile devices. To reach Afghan teachers, USAID is working with the Afghan Ministry of Education to survey teachers using their mobile phones. In less than six months, the initiative has already registered 6,000+ teachers in five provinces. The data is helping to quickly assess the viability of mobile money salary payments. It is also creating an avenue by which USAID can monitor the success of the intervention and receive feedback from citizens directly.

Real-time Results in Uganda

Uganda is a hotbed for innovation due in large part to UNICEF’s strong partnership with the Government of Uganda. Together they launched mTrac, which enables health facility workers to send government reports via SMS and map important data like stocks of essential medicines. Recently, the Ugandan Ministry of Health used mTrac to survey 10,000 health workers to see if their health unit had a cold-chain fridge to store vaccines before a national distribution campaign.  At the cost of $150, and over the course of two days, the Ministry of Health received information from 1,862 health facilities, learned  that only 73.1 percent of facilities had working cold chain fridges, and identified which clinics had mechanical problems and which districts were experiencing consistent failure.

Informing Health Care Improvements

Getting mothers and children better medical care requires adaptive programming that identifies problems at hospitals and reacts with targeted solutions. The USAID Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program is using mobile data collection tools to observe the quality of maternal and newborn care in seven countries. Staff collect data on tablets that automatically feed into tables, charts, and maps on the quality of healthcare delivered. This means staff at headquarters are always up-to-date on conditions in the field and can make informed decisions about how to strategically invest in addressing the most pressing issues.

About Digital Development

USAID’s Digital Development team fosters transformative and market-driven solutions to empower individuals through financial inclusion, data-driven evidence, and access to digital technology. We offer knowledge tools and support to dramatically increase the adoption of digital technology throughout USAID’s programs, and we partner with other donors, governments, companies, and NGOs to accelerate proven solutions that impact billions.

Last updated: November 06, 2015

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