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Mobile-Phone-Based Data Collection Systems Comparison TablePlease contact info[at] for corrections or additions. Thanks!Note: all developers of these programs have been notified by email. So far FrontlineSMS, Nokia, and RapidSMS have given input. OpenXData gave input but has since rescinded their input.Easy = basic computer literacy only (e.g. like Gmail)
Moderate = some tech skills required (e.g. like Excel formulas or macros)
Difficult = programming or other high-level skills required (e.g. any tech skill that required special training or education
Organization and Contact InformationCost, Difficulty, and General InformationEase of Installation, Maintenance, and UseOperational InfoAdditional Features: Analysis, Export, Reporting, Sharing, SecurityForm Design FeaturesAwards/Honors
DeveloperDeveloper Website/
Software Website
Support ContactCoded in Country?
(More than 50% of software development funding goes to local developers in developing countries)
Cost of Software and OperationSource code available?API?Installed base
of Users
ReliabilityLevel of Difficulty
of Installation/Getting Started
Level of Difficulty of MaintenanceLevel of Difficulty
of Use
Mobile devices
Can data be
collected when phone is offline?
Where is data
stored after transfer from phone?
How is data transmitted?Can data be collected by simple text messages (without installing an app on the phone)GPS SupportAutomated
("analysis"= manipulation of collected data, eg, by generating frequencies)
Non-Automated Analysis ("analysis"= manipulation of collected data, eg, by generating frequencies)Google or other Maps integrationExport/Import
of data
Export/Import of Form DescriptionsAutomated
("report" = sending info/analysis/data)
Analysis on phone? ("analysis"=manipulation of collected data, eg, by generating frequencies)Multiple language
Public Form LibraryUser Privilege/
Access Levels
SecurityForm PreviewText
Date QuestionsTime QuestionsExclusive Multiple Choice (radio button and/or dropdown menu)Non-exclusive multiple choice (checkboxes)GPS QuestionsRange-Checks for Numeric Questions (upper and lower limits)Subforms
(skip patterns)
Audio QuestionsVideo
Yes, almost all
development in Kenya by Kenyans
Free for most users (more than 99% of 6000+ users), paid Pro and Enterprise accounts available for unlimited data collection and storage, API access, SMS data collection, own-server data storage, customized automated reports.

The World Bank documented a 71% reduction in costs with EpiSurveyor compared with paper ( See
Web software has API available, mobile app is open-source, older Palm version is open-sourceYesMore than 6000 in 170+ countries have collected more than 300,000 forms to-date (see for latest figures). User orgs include CDC, World Bank, UNICEF, Abt, JSI, WHO, PAHO.More than 6000 users uploading 20,000+ records per month. No downtime or data loss since coming online in June 2009.Easy: no installation for form designer:it is a web application, like Gmail. Easy download of mobile J2ME app from weblink to collectors' phones. Typically takes just minutes to get started, can be collecting data in minutes. No technical staff required.Easy: no maintenance required for most users as DataDyne maintains the server. No technical staff required.To design forms, etc:
Easy - No tech background
required, only basic
computer literacy
To collect data: easy
App runs on common ("non-smart") phones, Android, Blackberry. No iPhone (yet). Full list at

New SMS data collection works from ANY phone.
Yes1 - at
2 - on user's laptop (user can transfer data directly from phones to their computer), or
3 - on user-maintained servers
1 - using the GPRS/internet connection on the phone
2 - using a cable or bluetooth from phone to laptop
3 - Using SMS from the phone app
4 - using SMS from any phone (best for simple data)
YesYesYes, all users have
basic auto-analyses.
at additional
YesYes, can view all data points on Google Map by clicking Map tabExport of data to Excel, text,
mdb formats
Import of data from text format
Export of forms in .doc, .xml, or .svy formatsYes, automated
emails to designated persons at specified time intervals and/or when specified amount of data is added.
Yes, EpiSurveyor app includes basic analysis of collected data on phone. Also, there is additional "SuperROSA" app for Android phones that a supervisor can use to view supervisory reports about any data collection activity in real-time from the field (requires that supervisor has Android phone)Yes, any
language may be used, and additional language version of website and mobile app can be created if user supplies translation.
Yes, users can optionally choose to share their forms (but not their data) with all users, who can search the common form library based on keywords (this is in addition to sharing forms and/or data explicitly with specified users)Yes, user can be given access to a form with "just add data but not view data", add and view data, or add/view/edit privilegesData transmission by HTTPS encryption. Data encrypted on phone and protected by userid/password. Data encrypted on server and protected by userid/password. Verisign certified.Yes, live onscreen preview of questions, skips, etcYesYes, integer or
YesNoYesYesYesYesOnly on
version (so
not on
phones yet)
YesNoNoNoWall Street Journal Award for Innovation in Healthcare / Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability / Tech Museum Award / Stockholm Challenge Award
FrontlineFormsFrontlineSMSwww.frontlinesms.com (all developed under contract in the UK)Software is free, technical staff may be requiredNoNoUnknownUnknownModerate. Design software installed on laptop, then mobile J2ME app installed on collectors' phonesModerateEasyMany: full list at user's
laptop or desktop
Via compressed SMS messages (no GPRS connection required)NoNoNoNoNoExport as .csv textUnknownNoNoNot yetNoNoUnknownUnknownYesYes, including
phone number
and currency
YesYesNoYesNoNoNoNoNoNoNoTech Museum Award, recognized for excellence by National Geographic
RapidSMSUNICEF, Thoughtworks, Dimagi, Earth provided through Internet
Relay Chat (IRC) on the
#rapidsms channel
on (requires
IRC client or


via RapidSMS Google Group
The main code is not CIC, but the coding for country-level implementations is sometimes CICSoftware is free, technical and software development staff are required (use is "inappropriate", per website, if such expertise is not available)YesYesUnknownUnknownDifficult: project documents are very clear that technical staff required, also "experience with command line tools and server administration is necessary for installation and configuration" and "Experience with object oriented programming is necessary for customization"Difficult: technical staff required, also "experience with command line tools and server administration is necessary for installation and configuration". "Experience with object oriented programming is necessary for customization"Easy: sending text messages (but user must know the correct format for the SMS in advance, there are minimal data checks at the point of data collection)Many mobile phones and GSM modemsKindof. Handsets typically store messages in outbox and send automatically once the handset re-enters network coverage.On user's serverVia SMSYesNoYesYes (depending on installed apps)YesTo excelYes, import/export of xform definitions in xml formatYesNoYesNoNo on phone. Yes on server applicationConfigurable user privileges can control access, optional pin codes can be used for retrieving sensitive informationUnknownAll data sent as SMS message. User must properly format. All data sent as SMS message. User must properly format. All data sent as SMS message. User must properly format. All data sent as SMS message. User must properly format. NoNoYesYesYes, called "decision tree"YesNoNoNoUSAID Development 2.0 Challenge
OpenXDataOpenXDatawww.openxdata.orgcontact@openxdata.orgYes, per organization "more than 50% of programming funds (i.e. the money that has been spent on programming openXdata by all organizations involved) has been spent in developing countries"Software is free,
technical staff is required
YesYes (basic documentation at plus on ("unnerving"
per developer's website): requires knowledge of server installation, mySQL, Tomcat, Linux commands, all-in-one installer available for Windows, set-up of public IP required for GPRS connectivity
Difficult: requires staff skilled
at maintaining and configuing Linux servers
Web application, once set up, is "easy" to use, per developer.Mobile client - easy to use; many successful setups with field workers in developing countries; Form, user, and permissions set-up do not require technical backgroundRequires J2ME phone, most nokia work fine, some Sony-Ericsson & Motorola Razr. No iPhone, android or blackberry. Full list at user-
maintained servers
1 - using the GPRS/internet connection on the phone; 2 - Bluetooth available if using windows; 3 - SMS transmission of data is possibleNoYesNoYes (called "reports"). Requires technical staff to configure.UnknownCSVUnknownNoNoMobile app can be translated using text file. Questions can be written in any language. Form designer and administration currently only in EnglishNoNoData transmitted
encrypted by HTTPS, secure userid/password
UnknownYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes, called "repeat questions"YesYesNoYesNone.
EpiCollectImperial College
London, technical staff may be requiredYesNoUnknownUnknownEasy: no installation of
form designer required: it is a web application. Installation of iPhone app from Apple's App Store, installation of Android from various sources
Easy: no maintenance required for most users as EpiCollect maintains the serverUnknowniPhone and Android phonesYesAt Google's
Using the GPRS/internet connection on the phoneNoYesNoNoYes, on phoneExportUnknownNoNoUnknownNoNoUnknownUnknownYesYesYesNoYesYesYesUnknownNoNoYesNoNoUnknown
GatherAED/Satellife's Gather is dead as a software development project, but may continue a theme for consulting using other organizations' softwareUnknownUnknownNoNoUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknownUnknown
Nokia Data GatheringNokia, technical mailing list and discussion forums available at
Yes: programmed entirely by Brazilian developersSoftware is free, technical staff are required if an organization chooses to run own serverYesNoUnknownUnknownDifficult: requires installation of software on user's server by technical staff familiar with J2EE (Jboss, EJB3, MySQL), and FLEX (action script)ModerateEasy: creating forms is easy through integrated survey creator (web interface), collecting data easy (Java application)Nokia E71, E72, E61, E61i, E63. Full list at user-maintained servers1 - using the GPRS/internet connection on the phone
2- using a cable from phone to laptop
NoYesNoYesYes, using Ovi MapsExport of data as xls or csvNoNoNoYes (English, Spanish, Portugese) , any language may be used, and additional language version of website and mobile application can be created if community supplies translation.
NoYes: admin, operator and field workerPlan is to roll out data encryption with 3.04 release in April 2011.UnknownYesYesYesYesYesYesNoYesNoYes ("trigger questions")YesNoNoRunner up for Just Means Social Innovation awards in January 2011
ODK (Open Data Kit)University of Washington, USAhttp://opendatakit.org

Support available by email, mailing list, web chat.
The main code is not CIC, but the coding for country-level implementations is often CIC.Software is free, technical staff may be required. Support available via mailing list and web chat.

For the average user, the end-to-end system takes about an hour to build.

ODK has also been shown in peer-reviewed literature to be easier to use, less error-prone, more cost-effective and more timely when compared to PDA and paper-based systems (AMIA 2011, ICTD 2010).
YesYes5,000-10,000 users of ODK stock tools

10,000-50,000 users of ODK derivatives

More at
Carbon For Water collects 40,000 forms per day with ODK. They have generated over one million (and growing) records from 4,000 community health workers in Kenya.

MVP has collected over 3-5 million data points on 30,000 facilities.
Depends on if you are setting up your own server or using Google App Engine. Setting up own server is difficult, requiring high-level computer skills. Setting up with Google Apps is Moderate, and less time-consuming. Server maintenance is easy with Google App Engine and difficult when using user-maintained servers.Data entry on phones is easy.

Form design is easy for common types of forms and moderate for forms with lots of branching.
Android phones and tablets

iPhone support through ocRosa and DK ViewWorld.

J2ME/SMS support through JavaRosa.
Can be transferred to desktop computer.

Can be transferred to user-maintained server.

Can be transferred to Google App Engine.
Using the GPRS/WiFi connection on the phone.

Using a cable from phone to laptop.

Can plot on Google Maps and export to Google Earth. Can also flow data to external programs for analysis and visualization.
Export is common.

Import can be added if using Google Fusion Tables or Google Spreadsheets.

Through XForms format.

Requires programming. Examples available.

Requires programming. Examples available.

Forms can be localized without technical expertise.

Mobile application is localized in a handful of languages. Adding more requires submitting translations to the ODK team.

Examples at
YesData transmission by HTTPS encryption.

Encryption of phone and server data coming in September 2011.
NoYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesGoogle Focused Research Grant, Pizzigati Prize for Software in the Public Interest, WTIA Industry Achievement Award
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