24 researchers from across different countries, research and development projects and organizations attended a workshop on Open Data Kit (ODK) in the final week of January 2018. The workshop, organized by CIALCA – took place at the Central African Hub Office of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nairobi.
The workshop facilitated knowledge exchange and helped to develop capacity for digital data collection, analysis, and reporting. The focus was on Open Data Kit (ODK), an open-source tool suite that enables customizable mobile data collection. Several projects in which IITA is engaged are collaborating in streamlining their data collection and analysis using ODK.
At the workshop, participants new to ODK developed their first ODK surveys, while ODK veterans shared their expertise in digital data collection and processing. Dr. Pieter Pypers (IITA) described his experiences using ODK in the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI – www.acai-project.org) and recommended best practices for designing data infrastructure. Murat Sartas (IITA) shared how he uses ODK as a social scientist in the CGIAR Roots Tubers and Bananas’ Scaling Readiness project and led a discussion on ODK’s strengths and weaknesses, and James Hammond (ILRI) demonstrated how ODK integrates with data analysis and reporting software in the Rural Household Multi-Indicator Survey (RHoMIS). Rounding out the presentations were Dr. Jens Andersson (CIMMYT), who described how ODK is applied in the Taking Maize Agronomy to Scale in Africa initiative, and Nathaniel Rosenblum (One Acre Fund), who explained how One Acre Fund uses a variant of ODK to gather data on farmers enrolled in their program.
The workshop also provided opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and discussion, with panel discussions on ODK relative to other tools and walkthroughs of various features. Participants learned about integrating dynamic elements, georeferencing, barcode scanners, photos, and logic structures. Meanwhile, working sessions on individual surveys allowed participants to collaborate and directly implement insights from their fellow researchers. According to one of the organizers, Dr. Marc Schut (CIALCA coordinator), the workshop represented in many ways “a new way of doing agricultural research for development, using innovative digital tools to work smarter, with higher impact, and more cost-effective.”