Case Study: How an NGO uses Secure Data Kit to transform lives

Back in 2017, we had the opportunity to work with our first NGO client, Amigos for Christ (AFC). Their mission: “We work shoulder-to-shoulder with Nicaraguan neighbors to bring clean water, healthcare, education, and economic opportunity to rural communities in need.” This mission seemed to line up nicely with what we are doing with Secure Data Kit: using data to help relieve suffering.

Up until that point, we had worked almost exclusively with public health organizations. We knew we wanted to explore NGOs since they were working in largely the same places on the same kinds of things and faced many of the same problems with their tools (mostly spreadsheets and paper based forms):
  • How to adequately collect data with numerous field personnel
  • How to seamlessly share that data among these folks
  • How to start making decisions with that data

When AFC decided to start working with us, they had two big requirements:
  1. They wanted to study the data longitudinally. That is, they needed to be able to follow a family / individual / community over a course of time (instead of a single point in time). To do this in remote areas, we needed to be able to store *all* of the data on their androids, iPads, iPhones, and be able to call up any record on the phone regardless of internet connectivity.
  2. They needed the built-in reporting capabilities of Secure Data Kit so they could easily share their progress with their donors.

With SDK we were finally able to start seeing how we're using data to transform lives

AFC is primarily using Secure Data Kit to collect:
  • Photos
  • GPS
  • Tracking of fecal / urine exams
  • Tracking micro loans within a community

Here’s the numbers we have in the system so far (as of Nov 7 2018):
  • 21 communities
  • 196 community leaders
  • 1,765 families
  • 8,280 individuals

How Secure Data Kit Benefits Amigos for Christ

"Secure Data Kit gives us an easy way for all the users to get the most up to date snap shot of what our data looks like"

We had a conversation with Brian Peters from the Amigos team. His work is primarily around collecting, analyzing, and tracking how AFC's community development efforts are going. With a background in Environmental Science at Stanford, Brian picked up just enough R to be dangerous — it's the tool built into SDK that he uses to build his reports. He mentioned that prior to SDK they used excel spreadsheets and a variety of other data capture tools. The challenge with these other tools is they made it hard to collect pictures / videos and sharing data in real time was next to impossible.
"More than anything, Secure Data Kit is a huge decision making tool for us"

When the Amigos team starts working with a community, understanding the baseline is important. They collect information about water quality, family income, and overall family health. From there, they create goals for each community:
  • Access to clean water 24/7
  • Reduce intestinal parasites by 10%
  • Cleaner burning stoves

Brian and his co-worker Carlos (Brian is using his phone, Carlos has the iPad) meeting with a woman in the community and entering data in BPS.

These are just a few examples, but once these baselines stats are captured, the Amigos team will return on a regular basis to see how they're measuring against the goals. Using SDK's multi-platform capabilities (iPhone, Android, tablet, desktop), AFC will log the data in the system, creating a picture of how the community is doing. Secure Data Kit keeps the full database on the device so the team can pull up prior visits (with or without internet connection), allowing them to see a cross section of data, as well as add to it, with clarity and precision they didn't previously have.

What Can Technology do for NGOs?

Technology can play a hugely important role for NGOs. Software as a service (like Secure Data Kit) allows organizations to rapidly deploy tech to the field on smartphones and then use that technology to capture data (GPS, photos, etc) and follow the population they're serving over time. With advanced reporting features, you can easily notice trends and share updates with your field team. Data is no longer locked away in a spreadsheet on someone's computer. It's one step closer to seeing how the work you do is transforming lives.