The use of mobile phones as a data collection tool : a report from a household survey in South Africa

Tomlinson, Mark
Solomon, Wesley
Singh, Yages
Doherty, Tanya
Chopra, Mickey
Ijumba, Petrida
Tsai, Alexander C.
Jackson, Debra
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
BioMed Central
Background: To investigate the feasibility, the ease of implementation, and the extent to which community health workers with little experience of data collection could be trained and successfully supervised to collect data using mobile phones in a large baseline survey Methods: A web-based system was developed to allow electronic surveys or questionnaires to be designed on a word processor, sent to, and conducted on standard entry level mobile phones. Results: The web-based interface permitted comprehensive daily real-time supervision of CHW performance, with no data loss. The system permitted the early detection of data fabrication in combination with real-time quality control and data collector supervision. Conclusions: The benefits of mobile technology, combined with the improvement that mobile phones offer over PDA's in terms of data loss and uploading difficulties, make mobile phones a feasible method of data collection that needs to be further explored.
Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.
The original publication is available at
Community health workers -- South Africa, Community health workers -- South Africa -- Data processing
Tomlinson, M. et al. 2009. The use of mobile phones as a data collection tool: a report from a household survey in South Africa. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 9:51, doi:10.1186/1472-6947-9-51.