At the end of 2016, we published a post on the digital data collection sector. In 2017, we’re delving deeper into this growing sub-field of ICT4D with interviews, technology reviews, and guest posts. We’re kicking things off with a piece from our friends at Findyr who specialize in gathering insights from emerging markets using mobile-enabled, trained data collectors from the field. Kelsey Buchbinder is a Business Development Associate at Findyr.

Data collection is an essential part of development research and practice. By going beyond desk research and delving deeper into local opinions, socio-political dynamics, and economic data, development professionals have an opportunity to analyze problems and make decisions that are informed by ground truth, not just intuition. But data-collection tools can also vary in their effectiveness and accuracy, making it very difficult for researchers who need to ensure their decision-making is based on the most up-to-date and relevant data. Enter the power of the crowd.

Crowdsourcing Data Collection: A New Concept in Development Research

While crowdfunding has gained traction in the last few years as a viable option for businesses seeking funds for growth or for entrepreneurs needing to raise capital to start their business, the crowd can also help research firms, consulting agencies, data analysts, and other development specialists to conduct more accurate research and data collection.

Crowdsourcing for data collection is not a new concept—it has been utilized by large research firms for years in a variety of markets. For example, marketing research giant Nielsen collects data from point-of-sale check-out systems in retail stores to collect and analyze information on sales of consumer goods. There are also a number of apps and websites that rely on crowdsourcing data collection from individuals all across the world to report issues with their local traffic, weather, and urban conditions.

In the field of transportation technology, Waze has been extremely successful in using technology in crowdsourcing data to create a real-time traffic-based navigation tool. By allowing users to report incidents and their movements, Waze maps traffic trends and redirects traffic. This not only helps the individual user reach their destination more quickly but also alleviates congestion across major metropolitan areas.

Crowdsourced Data Collection in ICT4D

In the last few years, a number of technology-based crowdsourced data collection tools have emerged that allow development projects to reach people and places they hope to better understand. These tools are based on the assumption that the best data can to be gleaned from the source, by people who are out in the field, where one needs to be physically but can’t.

Ushahidi, based out of Nairobi, specializes in citizen reporting during crises. The company sprang from the violence in 2008 following the Kenyan national election, allowing citizens to report and track any violence they saw or experienced via social media and mobile phones. Today, its platform allows users to source data through customizable forms to gather data on real time global events.

Voto Mobile also leverages mobile phones to connect with people in hard-to-reach places and delivers information to professionals and organizations that serve them. Along with promoting healthy behavior through mobile phone reminders for activities surrounding health, hygiene, agriculture, and education, Voto allows organizations and individuals to ask questions of their beneficiaries to aid in designing more effective programming.

Findyr is a data collection tool that taps into a vast network of individuals, enabling researchers to collect hyper-local verified data to increase efficiencies and accuracy throughout the data collection process. Because of the technology’s ability to collect data across videos, text responses, and photos, it allows researchers to collect diverse datasets, from custom price indexes to performing due diligence and rigorous randomized surveys.

Benefits of Using Crowdsourcing for Data Collection

In addition to being a cost-effective means of accurate data collection, crowdsourced data collection offers several additional advantages and benefits, including:

  • Easily gain insight into specific local markets, including cities and neighborhoods, with near real-time information
  • Access to accurate data for marketing projects, strategies, and case studies
  • Verified data, to assist in managing risk and confirming events in locations all around the globe
  • Getting the jump on data collection in emerging markets
  • Minimizing travel time while still collecting data that can only be obtained in person
  • Services like Findyr collect hyper local data that is GPS-tracked and time/date stamped

As the crowd becomes more digitally connected and digitally literate, even in the poorest markets, crowdsourced technology tools allow us to collect data more quickly and cheaply than ever before. But most importantly, they allow this crowd to play a central role in our development decision-making, ensuring that it is rooted in the realities and needs of the people we serve.