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Posted by on Aug 23, 2019 in Information Management, Mobile Technologies | 0 comments

Advantages & disadvantages of MDC: a visual summary

Advantages & disadvantages of MDC: a visual summary

This is the second of 3 blog posts published to present some of the figures produced by CartONG for the Lessons Learned paper reflecting on the Terre des hommes‘ experience of implementing Mobile Data Collection projects in their programs over the last five years. The study itself will be published on this blog in early September (now available here). The first blog post regarding a “Typology of the world of MDC” is accessible here, and the third one about “At which steps of your data collection is MDC more time efficient than paper-based data collection?”, is accessible here.


Please note that this visual is published under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Mobile Data Collection is often compared to paper-based data collection in order to highlight its advantages and disadvantages. Although the positive and negative aspects of MDC are already well documented within the humanitarian sector in the past (see resources below), we felt the need to produce our own summary reflecting CartONG’s vision and a decade of MDC field experience. We intentionally left out some aspects, as our objective was to highlight what is the most distinctive for the humanitarian sector and development actors.

It is important to mention that 2 main aspects in particular are not covered here, as they can fall either in the advantages or disadvantages depending on the context:

  • aspects related to data protection: on the one hand, MDC can improve data security by centralizing data in an online – and password-protected – database with restricted access, thus excluding the risk of paper forms being lost or stolen. On the other hand, by having all the data centralized in one place, it also exacerbates the risk of large volumes of data being compromised if unauthorized users gain access to the server, especially in MDC platforms that are not sufficiently secure. The associated risks should therefore be analyzed based on context: a conflict-affected context with tech-savvy armed groups for instance, is very different from a peaceful rural setting with little chance of data being hacked.
  • aspects related to environmental protection (or nuisance): MDC can be seen as avoiding multiple printing of paper forms and therefore supporting an environmental effort. However, the question of the production of the phones, of the associated energy use and of the recycling of the batteries is definitely a thorn in the foot of any promoter of a green approach to data collection.

Compiling this visual (you may download a PDF version here) was an interesting exercise for our MDC team to challenge each other on our different field experiences. We hope that it can support other humanitarian actors in their organisation’s or operation’s strategy in terms of their data collection processes. Don’t hesitate to share your feedback by commenting the blog post or by contacting us here!

Related CartONG resources:

  1. Benchmarking of Mobile Data Collection Solutions, CartONG, Tdh & UNHCR, June 2017 ; Retrieved: 14 January 2019

Related external resources:

  1. Digital Data Collection Vs. Data Collection on Paper, Development Outlook, 2012 ;  Retrieved: 14 January 2019
  2. FHI 360 Paper-to-mobile data collection: A manual, U.S. Global Development Lab & FHI 360 ; Retrieved: 14 January 2019

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The content of the CartoBlog was transferred to the Information Management Resource Portal in May 2021:

Please note that the CartoBlog will be decommissioned in early 2022. From now on, we warmly encourage you to consult the tutorials, benchmarking studies and other resources directly onto the new portal.

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🚚 📦 On déménage !

Le contenu du CartoBlog a été transféré sur l’IM Resource Portal en mai 2021 :

Veuillez noter que le CartoBlog sera désactivé au début de l’année 2022. Nous vous invitons, dès à présent, à prendre l’habitude de consulter les tutoriels, benchmarkings et autres ressources directement sur le nouveau portail.

Merci !