The use of mobile phones as a data collection tool: a report from a household survey in South Africa

BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2009 Dec 23:9:51. doi: 10.1186/1472-6947-9-51.


Background: To investigate the feasibility, the ease of implementation, and the extent to which community health workers with little experience of data collection could be trained and successfully supervised to collect data using mobile phones in a large baseline survey

Methods: A web-based system was developed to allow electronic surveys or questionnaires to be designed on a word processor, sent to, and conducted on standard entry level mobile phones.

Results: The web-based interface permitted comprehensive daily real-time supervision of CHW performance, with no data loss. The system permitted the early detection of data fabrication in combination with real-time quality control and data collector supervision.

Conclusions: The benefits of mobile technology, combined with the improvement that mobile phones offer over PDA's in terms of data loss and uploading difficulties, make mobile phones a feasible method of data collection that needs to be further explored.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cell Phone*
  • Community Health Workers* / education
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Middle Aged
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • South Africa
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult