Subha’s journey to explore Mobile Data Collection

Featured | JUNE 27 2019

This blog post is written by Subha Maharjan, an Open Data Women Fellow 2019

One fine day, I saw some of my friends sharing the Open Data Women Fellowship post on Facebook. Open Data Fellowship – Women Edition is a fellowship which focuses on strengthening and empowering women towards the Open Data Movement. As I was also involved in Women Leaders in Technology (WLiT), one of the partners of Open Knowledge Nepal, they told us to look through it and gave us a brief description about the benefits and opportunities of Open Data Women Fellowship. I looked into it and gradually got interested to apply. I went through Open Knowledge Nepal’s page on Facebook and their website and found out what type of organization it is. I strongly felt that this was a good opportunity for me to explore open data and how I as an individual can use open data to bring any social, economic or environmental benefits in the community. Also, their visions intrigued me to grab this fellowship. I feel glad that I applied for it and luckily, got selected.

The structure of the fellowship was to visit 10 host organizations for the training. The organizations were mostly software companies, NGOs and INGOs and civic tech companies. We were altogether 10 fellows and each of us were given a placement in one of them for a month’s period. We were asked for our opinions after the organization visit to match us with those host organizations. Though a month is not exactly sufficient to work in a real-time project but based on the program structure and my experience as a fellow, now I feel it was ample.

We were all given placements in accordance to our academic background, personality, dedication and many other factors. I was given a letter of placement after being selected in one of the organizations. I was chosen for Kathmandu Living Labs (KLL). Nikesh Balami and Dipti Gautam from Open Knowledge Nepal helped me to contact with Saurav Bhattarai from Kathmandu Living Labs who was the focal person for the fellowship program. And thus, began my journey at KLL.

Kathmandu Living Labs is a civic technology company that leads a community of young changemakers and strives to co-create ICT tools and information infrastructure to help solve local problems. KLL actively works in the field of open data, open mapping, digital leadership and mobile data collection. KLL works in providing open mapping, digital leadership, civic learning and sustainable development.

I joined KLL on May 5, 2019. Working there was a new experience for me as it was my first time working as an intern in a new workspace. They were keen to learn about my interests and where could I fit in. I was assigned to do research about data collection survey, how data could be collected from fields, mobile data collection tools, their components and open source tools to know the importance of why and how data is collected. I used KoBo Toolbox and ONA to test the validation of forms and questionnaires. KoBo Toolbox and ONA are open-source tools for mobile data collection available to all. It allows us to collect data in the field using mobile devices such as cell phones or tablets, as well as with paper or computers. I mostly explored about Open Data Kit, ODK collect and ODK aggregate which is basically how data is collected from surveys digitally and how it is stored in the server. I also learned about the OpenStreetMap (OSM) and did a few mappings as well. OSM is the free editable map of the world. Every edit we make in OSM is owned by us. Thousands of users from all around the world are updating the map as their world changes around them. Every update is immediately visible to all other users and is version controlled.

Fig 1 is ODK collect.  This is a mobile application which is used to collect data digitally. The questionnaires used by surveyors can be accessed in the ODK collect and the data collected can be directly stored in the server e.g. KOBo ToolBox.

 

Fig 2 KOBO Toolbox, an open source tool for field data collection. I used Kobo Toolbox for store data collected through ODK Collect.

 

Fig 3 is the questionnaire prepared with XLSForm. XLSForm is a form standard created to help simplify the authoring of forms in Excel.

 

Fig 4 is the XLS form rendered in mobile devices through ODK Collect.

 

Apart from the technical work, I really loved the positive environment there. My colleagues were very friendly, fun and easy to interact with that they made me feel comfortable there. I also got to experience Innovation hour which happens every Wednesday, which is basically an hour-long session where one of the employees presents their ideas, shares their knowledge, new experiences, anything that can create an impact and everybody would delve into it and provide feedback. Apart from this, there was futsal twice a week which was a mental repose.  At the last day of my internship, I also got to present my experience at KLL in one of the innovation hour sessions.

I am really grateful to be a part of this journey as an Open Data Women Fellow 2019. I would like to express my gratitude to Open Knowledge Nepal and Kathmandu Living Labs for believing in me and helping me grow. I had an amazing time working at Kathmandu Living Labs. The things I’ve learned in this fellowship were worthy enough. The tasks I’ve done in KLL has made me confident to make questionnaires that can collect data through mobile devices which can be used in any surveys or data collection activities. I am glad that I will be able to collect data from the fields digitally in the future. I can use it in doing surveys in a large population and collect as well as manage those data accordingly. I plan to learn more about Data Visualization, Data analysis in my coming days and contribute my skills in Data Science as datasets are a huge part of Data Science and with the managed data collected through ODK, we can save a lot of time and energy and also move further into the Data Visualization.

For the upcoming generations, I want you to know that if you wish to work on open data and create an impact in the community then this is a great platform. Always seek for better opportunities and don’t hesitate to grab them. Life is a process from striving to thriving.