In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, organisations equipped to respond to the urgent needs of communities, will need information, insight and feedback.
In times of emergency, humanitarian organisations are relying on smart phones to collect, analyse and process data. So long are the days of manual, paper-based data collection; mobile technology is proving to be the way forward.
Within days of the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal, organisations like Plan International deployed staff to conduct rapid needs assessments in some of the most affected districts. What they brought with them were devices – like tablets and smartphones – that proved to be essential when collecting data from the field.
Teams needed to understand the extent of the earthquake’s damage and what children and their families needed most. Smart phones and tablets are light and transportable and they require very little training on how to use them, as most people are familiar with the devices.
Using smart phones and tablets to collect data has become a standard for us - Krishna Kumar Shrestha, Community Engagement Manager
“Once data is plugged into our phones, the information is uploaded onto a server via an Internet connection and later exported for data analysis. We no longer waste time on manual data collection and focus more time on making informed decisions,” says Shrestha.
Plan International staff rely on mobile applications like POImapper when conducting interviews and meeting with communities. Through POImapper, teams are able to collect, analyse and share information from earthquake-affected areas.
Most recently, the Plan International staff used mobile phones and tablets to collect community feedback on how families used cash provided to them under a cash-based programme.
“Traditionally, we would rely on people to provide written feedback, which can be short-sighted as people may not be able to read and write. We can now collect feedback on our phones through a simple conversation,” explains Krishna.
The smartphone application allows humanitarian workers to capture, geo-tag and transmit images; by geo-tagging an image captured in the field, staff can then identify the specific GPS location of distribution sites, field projects and temporary schools built by Plan International.
Information is aid
When the monsoon season and subsequent aftershocks triggered dozens of landslides in Plan International working areas, many communities were cut off and areas became inaccessible. Using mobile phones, the team was able to use the coordinates from the geo-tagged images to understand the proximity of the landslides and road closures to our projects in the field.
“We understand that information saves lives and it should be a priority, alongside food, shelter and water. Technology has allowed us to react more swiftly and strategically. Through mobile phones, information can be transmitted and updated faster than ever before,” says Mattias Bryneson, Country Director for Plan International in Nepal.
To date, Plan International Nepal has surveyed and interviewed more than 1,000 children and adults from three earthquake-affected areas using mobile phones and tablets.