1 week, 4 days ago by Timothy Cox
This blog is an interesting account of how one government had a herculean task of nation-wide data collection. The stakes of the project were so high that failing was not an option. But soon enough after launching the ambitious project with paper forms, hiccups started one after another. They did figure out a magic pill for this problem - mobile forms app! Find out how it worked.
Technology can touch the lives of people in a variety of ways.
This is not just another fancy quote written to impress you.
It’s a true story of how a simple mobile app left an impact on the lives of people of this nation (name withheld on request)
Jayesh Kitukale, CEO - Axonator, said, “We developed a platform where businesses could easily build mobile applications themselves. These mobile apps built helped companies to achieve goals like productivity, automation, digital transformation, etc. But little did we imagine that our platform will help a government in such a wonderful way.”
A report published by this government in 2014 made some shocking revelations about the world population affected by disabilities.
It said around 15% of the world’s total population has been affected with at least one kind of disability. Disabilities of different kinds related to visual, physical, speech, hearing, emotional, and intellectual.
The implications of the disability are quite serious as they directly affect health, economic condition, education, and various other factors of the person.
The Problem of Having No Data
To combat this serious problem, this government decided to amend some of its existing policies, introduce new health policies, and distribute funds to assist such identified people.
But to frame new policies or help such people economically, one needs to understand the scale of the problem.
They needed strong data - data which gave them concrete numbers and taxonomy on every possible parameter:
It was crystal clear that without the measure of the problem, it was impossible to come up with a solution.
Let’s Collect Data
This compelled the govt to kickstart a data collection project on different types of disability across the country with the help of a local agency.
The agency, in turn, sent representatives on the field to meet people having any kind of disability, and collect data on the paper forms.
When the paper forms reached offices, the data was entered manually by operators, which was further sent for analysis.
The Perils of Paper Forms
The govt soon had their moment of truth: Paper-based processes are really cumbersome, time-consuming, and tedious.
All of the above challenges can be managed to an extent - but what cannot be managed is inaccurate data.
Paper forms in data collection have their own set of challenges. They invite a lot of manual errors.
Can policies be framed with the help of incorrect data? This question certainly doesn’t need an answer.
So, technically if teams are using paper forms to collect data, there are good chances that they will commit errors.
If there were no errors committed during the data collection, what about when data being entered by the operator?
There are multiple points where data can possibly go wrong.
An Alternative to Paper Forms - Data Collection App
On realizing this, the govt started hunting solutions which could take care of this problem. The time was running out since the government does not really have the luxury of time when it comes to policy-making.
This is when they came across with Axonator - an award-winning mobile app solution for data collection.
Darnell Gibson (name changed), one of the key govt representatives in the health department said, “After evaluating Axonator and various other mobile forms app for data collection on various parameters, we zeroed in on Axonator.”
He further made a comment saying, “Our main aim was to expedite the data collection process without compromising on the data quality. Paper forms not just gave erroneous data, it was very difficult for us to organize it. Organizing the data was also pretty much our priority - and luckily, Axonator fit our bill too well.”
With the help of the Axonator support team, Darnell’s team was able to build a mobile app specifically for data collection.
One Solution to Many Problems
Axonator mobile app for data collection became an instant success for some obvious reasons (mentioned below).
The mobile app’s ability to capture the photo of people made this data collection process more authentic. Unfortunately, with paper forms, there was no mechanism to capture a photo.
Physical passport-sized photographs were collected and stamped on the paper forms. But the photographs on the most paper forms were always missing due to a variety of reasons.
Mobile forms tackled this problem too well. The authorities now have access to a rich database which includes photographs, contact and personal information.
Axonator put its best team to work in order to meet the custom app requirement.
Axonator team built a mobile application with multiple forms embedded in the single form. So, technically, one single form had multiple subforms.
This allowed the user to work on the same form without having to close and start multiple forms for different subcategories.
Darnell explained, “One of the vital concerns for us was that mobile app should be simple enough for the field teams. We didn’t really want mobile apps overloaded with unwanted features. We wanted to spend bare minimum time on training the field teams. Axonator just happened to a mobile app that required almost no training. Simple yet effective.”
To this, Jayesh commented, “There’s a reason why Axonator has an advantage over other platforms. Not that it does not have features, it has better and powerful features, of course. But the point is Axonator has a superior UI/UX design - which boils down to the greater user experience. The user doesn’t feel overwhelmed while operating the mobile app - it happens almost naturally.”
Well-built Mobile Forms
Axonator support team also made sure that there were very few instances of wrong fields or subforms being filled. To take care of this, they added various logics and widgets like choice lists.
For example, one choice list had different types of disabilities. When any particular disability was chosen, only relevant fields and subforms appeared - and the rest disappeared automatically.
This type of advanced logic came to rescue field teams in multiple ways:
1. It prevented them from filling wrong forms (since most of them were similar and confusing).
2. It saved a lot of time.
So, a lot of rework was definitely put to rest for the teams.
Darnell & his team were looking for not just a data collection tool, but even beyond that, remember?
One of their major pain points was that they wanted to measure the depth of the problem by analyzing the data.
One month after the data collection project kicked off, they deployed analytics to gain actionable insights. Few clicks and they could fetch numbers like - how many people in the age group 0-10 age are affected with any disability? How many pregnant women are affected by a diet-related disability?
They could pull reports from such data and present it to higher authorities for further action. Darnell’s office team could track every single application easily through mobile apps.
Darnell said, “Back in the day, paper forms arrived after almost a week since the field teams were sent to remote locations. Then the data entry team took another week to feed the data in different systems. This is how things worked - now we have real-time information.
As soon our field representative submits from the field, office team can see it - and in fact, there have been cases where we gave instant feedback for some corrections. It was not really possible earlier to go back and forth - practically impossible to send a field agent again to fill a new form if there were errors.”
The time spent on data entry and rework is certainly saved!
No More Fake Data, Please!
The occurrences of fake data was another challenge which was tactfully eliminated by Axonator mobile app. The mobile form was designed in such a way that it became almost impossible for the field teams to manipulate data being collected.
1. The mobile forms included a signature feature for every person’s data being collected.
2. As already stated the capture of the person’s photo is essential in every mobile form being filled out.
3. Mobile forms have location button - when the user taps the button, it captures the live location through GPS.
4. The current time too can be captured similarly.
5. Each form needs a unique mobile number of the person (respondent), without which the form cannot be completed. A duplicate number is not accepted by the system.
6. OTP is sent to the mobile number entered on the mobile form. The form can be completed only after entering the OTP.
The aforementioned measures made sure that there’s no way data could be manipulated at any point. Erroneous and fake data instances were eliminated completely.
(Read another interesting case study on fake data here.)
Information at Your Fingertips
Darnell said, “When I met my senior authorities, all I had to do was pull out my mobile to answer the questions like how many people on the field, where they are, the status of the project, how many records collected, and so many important questions.
All I had to do is click, and fetch important information. It really empowered us to make faster decisions while on the go. It built good confidence in this whole process, which was clearly lacking at earlier stages when we used paper forms.”
Sample data (only for a representation purpose)
Darnell’s government is framing policies based on the data collected and is in the process of distributing funds - which will be directly accessible to the affected person.
A simple mobile app solved mammoth-sized problems of a government, and not just it stopped at that, it made an impact on the lives of the ordinary people.
Axonator is known worldwide for its enterprise mobility solutions. The mobile apps built on Axonator platform are best known to offer greater productivity, workflow automation, platform integration, report generation, and advanced analytics ability.
Interested in knowing how Axonator can help your enterprise or government?
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