Category - Best practices

5 Ways to Improve Your Data Security (Today!) for Digital Data Collection

Close your eyes and imagine you’re being interviewed about your sexual behaviors, your finances, and your health conditions – and then asked the same questions about each member of your family. The person speaking with you has taken photos of you, your children, and your home, and they captured your GPS coordinates within one meter of accuracy. You’ve trusted a stranger with incredibly personal and easily identifiable information. But what steps are they taking to keep your data secure and your family safe?

So you’ve decided to go digital… now what?

So you’ve decided to go digital for your next data collection project. Great decision! Perhaps you were persuaded by some of the benefits of going digital including lower cost, higher-quality data, and more immediate access to your data. Or perhaps you’re just tired of printing pages and pages of paper forms, dragging them around, keeping them organized, and spending hours and hours entering the data you collected by hand. Whatever your reasons, we’re here to help ensure that your first digital data collection project is a success.

Considerations when working with service providers

Many organizations work with service providers and local survey firms to implement their research projects. But how do you ensure data quality, data security, and timely – even immediate – access to your data? If you work with service providers or survey firms, you can demand that they use a data collection technology like SurveyCTO and set up simple yet powerful systems for quality control and real-time monitoring.

Considerations for service providers

When you use SurveyCTO for your data collection, you collect better data, your data is more secure, and your turn-around time is faster. As a service provider or survey firm, you may have encountered prospective or current clients who wanted to learn more about the opportunities afforded by digital data collection. To help you make the case for digital data collection, we’ve created the resources below from the perspective of a service provider. Feel free to adapt these materials when discussing SurveyCTO with your clients.

Survey Design for Quality Data – Part 2

Let’s pick up where we left off in Part 1 of our survey design for quality data series, which was inspired by Dobility founder and CEO Dr. Christopher Robert’s presentation in the TechChange course “Technology for Data Collection and Survey Design.” Lesson 1 focused on designing your survey with empathy for field staff and respondents. Lesson 2 highlighted SurveyCTO tools for building in relevance and constraints. With Lesson 3, we’ll jump into a number of ways that SurveyCTO enables you to automate monitoring and workflow.

Survey Design for Quality Data – Part 1

Last week, Dobility founder and CEO Dr. Christopher Robert presented on how to design surveys for quality data in the TechChange Course “Technology for Data Collection and Survey Design.” We thought it would be fun to share highlights from his talk with the larger community of mobile data collection users (while also showing off some of the cool ways that SurveyCTO can help you design smart surveys from day one).

Real-time project monitoring and visualization

SurveyCTO allows you to publish incoming data directly from the server to Google Sheets (formerly known as Google Spreadsheets), so you can create dashboards that present up-to-the-minute summaries of your data. You can then use these dashboards to monitor the progress of your surveys, share real-time results with your team, and more. This post shares a simple example.

Electronic vs. paper-based data collection

Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI or just “electronic”) and Paper and Pencil Interviewing (PAPI or just “paper-based”) are two different methods of conducting surveys and collecting data more generally. PAPI is the traditional method in which an enumerator fills in a paper form or questionnaire. CAPI is the newer method, gaining in popularity, where the enumerator uses a tablet, smartphone, or laptop computer to move through the interview and record responses…

Integrating with

The folks at open[Fn] have just released a integration for SurveyCTO and other ODK-based systems, and we’re very excited to have this new option available to our users. ( is a ridiculously powerful cloud platform that can be used for data monitoring, visualization, and management, priced at extremely steep discounts for nonprofits.) …

Considerations for institutional review boards

If you sit on an institutional review board (IRB) or other research ethics committee, you need to know how to assess projects that use electronic forms of data collection. Rest assured that data confidentiality with electronic data collection can actually be substantially safer than paper… if handled properly. This post discusses a series of questions that a research ethics committee should ask of projects employing electronic data collection…

Considerations for students

Graduate students have more to think about when it comes to electronic data collection. As students, timelines and budgets are tight, especially for those collecting data abroad. There are three short months in the summer to land in-country and collect data before returning to campus. And there’s likely little room for error with the budget. Luckily, with some planning and preparation, electronic data collection can maximize results within these constraints.