Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Innovative ways of collecting and sharing food security data in East and Central Africa (31)

 Post by Elena Di Paola (FAO)

On the 27th of September, in his session on “Innovative ways of collecting and sharing food security data in East and Central Africa”, Phillip Fong (FAO) who is based in Nairobi, told us about the success of digital pen and mobile data collection technology.

Field workers in Central and East Africa often face a difficult problem: Sending the data they collect about animal health to government specialists in a timely way to prevent epidemics. Unfortunately, the lack of high tech tools and poor computer literacy delayed the delivery of information by months.

One solution developed was an apparently simple solution: Pen and paper. Not the usual ones, though. A digital pen and paper technology that collect data as the workers write it down on special paper forms, and then send it through the mobile network to a central database. Each person in charge of gathering the information is given a set of paper forms to record the animal health data, a pen that contains a digital camera and a microprocessor, and a mobile phone. When the user writes on the form, the camera records the marks made by the pen. After completing the survey, the user ticks the “send box” inducing the pen to make a Bluetooth connection to the mobile phone, which then transmits the data to the server.

The outcome of the data received in database format is analyzed and validated by professional veterinarians. This simplifies the compilation of statistics and facilitates prompt intervention in case a possible epidemic is suspected.This technology is cost efficient when applied to large volumes.

“Simply amazing”, “I am extremely surprised”, “Wow, never heard of it” were some of the comments from the participants in the session on this project that is changing lives.

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