The implementation process for a mobile data collection program typically includes a few final tests of the platform, preparation and management of your devices, and the training of your users. However, there are many other aspects of launching a program that you should keep in mind. Whether it is how you engage the local community ahead of time, little details to ensure the device you choose functions properly, or logistical considerations, you can’t let anything drop in what can be the most difficult phase of your mobile data collection program.
Here are five additional considerations for launching a successful mobile data collection program:
The immediate beneficiaries won’t be the only ones in the community affected by your program.
1) Gather community support for the application
You will often hear us talk about “designing under the mango tree.” In all aspects of developing a mobile data collection program, we hope you can work with the end users and beneficiaries to ensure the platform is designed for them. During launch, this means gaining support from leaders in the community and setting expectations for the program’s impact. For maternal care programs, we try to gain support from elderly women in the village, who are often the decision makers for antenatal practices adopted by their daughters, daughters-in-law, and even granddaughters. This can encourage demand from the wider community and drive usage of your application in the long run.
2) Protect and back up your multimedia
Often, you’ll find that new users will mistakenly delete important images and videos from their device. These are the assets that deliver advice to the beneficiaries or even communicate the questions themselves. Make sure you have backups available on a computer to upload to these devices. This is especially important in low-connectivity areas where you cannot simply send media over the network.
Certain devices, like feature phones, often hold these assets on an SD card. In this case, be sure to password protect the card so that users cannot delete the assets, even if they try.
Your visual and audio assets can do a lot of good to communicate with beneficiaries. Keep track of them!
3) Provide technical support early
Make materials that help your workforce understand their responsibilities related to the app you developed available to them on day one. During training, introduce them to guides and support channels so they understand what resources are available for any gaps in their knowledge or troubleshooting issues. Keep track of any technical issues that come up with a form like this to prioritize follow-up with workers and revise issues quickly. Your users’ early experiences with your platform will create a lasting impression, so make sure it’s a good one.
The initial setup should not be the only time your team is focused on device performance.
4) Have a plan for your SIM cards and data plan
There is nothing more frustrating for frontline workers than having their phones run out of data. They are focused on reaching their beneficiaries and delivering service – they don’t have time to worry about what happens if they reach their data limit. Be clear and upfront with your workers about how SIM cards will be replaced or data plans refueled. If any workers come to you with questions, be clear with your entire team about the answer – they won’t be the only ones wondering.
5) Start tracking performance immediately
While you might not have a large enough dataset after the first few days of your program, it doesn’t mean you can sit back and take a few days off. Start monitoring your workers from day one to make sure they are using your platform correctly and making use of the available features. Your performance monitoring dashboard should allow you to immediately support your team with feedback on their usage. There will inevitably be a learning curve involved in the early days of your mobile data collection program, but use all the tools at your disposal to make it as fast as possible.
This step of the process can be a learning experience for you, as well. Understand where your new workers get caught up or confused and take strides to improve that onboarding experience as you scale up.
For more tips on the training stage of implementation, click here.
Beyond these five tips, take a good look at the assumptions you have made about your program and try to predict any potential shortcomings. It’s always better to have a plan in place for when something goes wrong, especially at the launch of all your hard work. Working with the team and community on the ground can help in predicting some of these potential issues, and they will most likely have a few solutions for you as well. From expanding phone usage policies to providing real-time feedback, there is always more you can to ensure the successful launch of your mobile data collection program.