Skip to content

Open Source in the Field: Two Case Studies from Open Data Kit (ODK)


2 mins read

Open Data Kit (ODK) is a suite of mobile data collection tools designed to replace paper-based forms when gathering data of all kinds in low connectivity areas. The idea to develop ODK stemmed, in part, from observing and trying to solve data collection problems in rural and resource poor communities.

ODK exemplifies the qualities of a global public good, built by a community that embodies the Principles for Digital Development, a set of nine “living” guidelines designed to help digital development practitioners integrate established best practices into technology-enabled programs.

ODK is an open-source tool upon which many other tools are built and professional services rely on, KoboToolbox and SurveyCTO being just two examples. The ODK developer community promotes multi-stakeholder collaboration, and invites users to participate in the conversation driving priorities for new feature development.

Beyond the developer community is an army of data collectors and end-users who rely on ODK to collect data for life-saving interventions around the world. The Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) sought to better understand the end-user experience, challenges and successes through case studies from two organizations that leveraged ODK to help with their work in food security and emergency relief: the International Potato Center (CIP) – through its Sweet Potato for Profit and Health Initiative (SPHI), and the Spanish Red Cross. The two resulting use cases discuss food security monitoring efforts in sub-Saharan Africa on the one hand, and data collection in emergency relief on the other. Insights compiled in these two use cases were shared with ODK developer community on its forum.

Download and read the International Potato Center (CIP) case study here.

Download and read the Spanish Red Cross case study here.

This exercise takes us back to the field where the idea of ODK started, and it underlines DIAL’s commitment to support tools, such as ODK, that contribute to public good in underserved communities. In the same vein, DIAL set up an Open Source Center to support the important work that ODK does, hoping to improve the maturity of the product and the health of the community that uses and maintains it.

Maurice Sayinzoga

Senior Associate, Digital Impact Alliance

Maurice Sayinzoga brings 9 years of experience as a development professional. His work spans the fields of education, public health, youth livelihoods development, and ICT4D. Maurice has been working with the Digital Impact Alliance since June 2017.

David McCann

Director of Technology for the T4D Open Source Software Incubator & Accelerator

David McCann serves as Director of Technology for the T4D Open Source Software Incubator & Accelerator at DIAL. He brings 10 years of experience building and managing small teams to achieve greenfield goals in both the non-profit and private sectors.

Share article