Using real-time data to plan for children
New technologies are now responsible for huge growth in the volume and types of data available, creating tremendous opportunities to inform and transform societies around the globe. This new world of data, in which data is bigger, faster and more detailed than ever before, is called the data revolution.
However, governments, organizations and people are at risk of being excluded from this revolution due to a lack of resources, capacity or opportunity. There are huge and growing inequalities in access to data and information and in the ability to use it.
Despite considerable progress in recent years, whole groups of people are not being counted and important aspects of people’s lives are not measured. This can result in the denial of basic rights for people, especially children and women. In addition, existing data are often not well used because they are released too late or not at all, not well documented and harmonized, or not available at the level of detail needed for decision-making.
As Uganda embarks on its journey to meet the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and localize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it needs to urgently harness the data revolution in order to monitor progress, hold government accountable and promote sustainable and equitable development without leaving anyone behind. One way to do this is through uSurvey.
What is uSurvey?
uSurvey is a web-based data collection tool that provides statistically representative real-time estimates of any indicator. It has been designed in partnership with the Uganda Bureau of Statistics to:
- Enhance timely release of survey results.
- Increase the frequency at which information is collected on indicators that would otherwise be updated after long intervals (4 to 5 years).
- Facilitate the collection of highly disaggregated data, providing information on marginalized communities.
- Provide evidence for equity-driven geographic focusing of development interventions.
uSurvey uses mobile equipment such as a tablet, smart phone or simple phone that is connected to a server via a USSD channel. This secure and interactive connection means that survey questions can be relayed from the server to hand-held mobile equipment and instant transmission of each response can be made from the mobile equipment to the server.
The tool can be used to collect data even when there is no mobile network connection, using the offline Open Data Kit, and the same data can be submitted later when a connection becomes available.
The versatility of uSurvey allows it to collect information from a scientifically-selected sample in standard surveys or in censuses (complete coverage of the population of interest). It also has an in-built ‘questions bank’ to enable the speedy design of survey questionnaires. The tool can summarize and visually present data by creating graphic or tabulated descriptive statistics such as frequencies, proportions, means, basic charts and distribution maps for variables selected by the user.
In addition, interviewers or enumerators can be appointed in advance and assigned the geographical area they will cover (enumeration area or EA) by phone. The system will then automatically assign the data from that phone number to the EA. The survey can be launched centrally to collect data over a USSD channel or by downloading the survey on any smartphone.
This tool is yet another example of how mobile technology innovations can revolutionalize our work and greatly stregthen accountability for children.
- In January 2016, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) piloted uSurvey during a study on female genital mutilation. Conducted over 14 days in early January and covering 4,600 households, the uSurvey tool enabled UNICEF and UBOS to get real-time data and present preliminary findings of the study just three days after fieldwork was completed.
- UBOS has committed to using uSurvey as a key data collection tool for all surveys in the country. At the end of August 2016, UBOS completed the listing of households in enumeration areas sampled for the 2016 Demographic Health Survey using uSurvey. They reported savings in time and money by using the digital tool.
What added value does mobile data collection provide?
- faster interviews (minimal writing on paper)
- faster data capture, storage and summarization
- lower survey costs (smaller field teams, no printing of forms, etc.)
- provides geo-spatial information
- shorter lead time between data collection and results release
- increases affordability of the collection of highly disaggregated data (at a fraction of the cost of data collection using paper-based interviews)
- real-time monitoring of progress in data collection
- instant broadcasting of messages to a single, a few or many field workers
- increased frequency of data collection (time and money saved on questionnaire printing, fieldwork and data entry and processing).
Expected results (by 2020)
By 2020, uSurvey will be used in multiple national surveys for data collection. This will contribute to surveys on child well-being being carried out on a more frequent basis, and include increased levels of disaggregation of the data collected.