The COVID-19 Pandemic has put governments across the world under pressure to react quickly and decisively. Globally, there is a need to establish the socio-economic, health, and political effects of the Pandemic as well as consider how to implement planned interventions to meet the existing development and social needs of the populations.
All this creates increased demand for information, data, and evidence to inform different policies and decision making. However, the pandemic has also created challenges to obtaining this information. The question therefore is ‘How can we adapt remote data collection approaches to support and inform adaptive decision-making during and post COVID-19 if we ever get there?’
Worldwide, Universities play complex roles in the academic system. This includes the mission of research production and training students and staff to engage in research. Universities are also mandated with the creation and dissemination of knowledge in a range of disciplines and fields. According to Philip G Altbach (2013), Research Professor and Director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College in the United States; Universities in low- and middle-income countries have crucial roles to play in developing differentiated and effective academic systems and making it possible for their countries to join the global knowledge society and compete in sophisticated knowledge economies especially in this new normal. This briefing note therefore focuses on the remote collection of data in the new normal to help BUC researchers think through a transition from more ‘traditional’ to ‘Remote/mobile' data collection methods that reflect the unique data collection challenges presented by COVID-19. Much of the world’s most important data has traditionally come from direct observation and in-person interviews. At a time when data is more critical than ever to inform programs and policies, direct observation and in-person interviews have suddenly become unsafe. As collection methods rapidly evolve, efforts have been made about how to set up phone surveys, web surveys, SMS surveys while ensuring data security and quality. Lock-downs, widespread in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, forced projects to quickly adapt to an extreme degree of decentralization and remote operation, as well as shift to alternative methods. Fortunately, even in-person operations can be decentralized to systematically reduce the need for travel and in-person interactions. These approaches to decentralization can also be applied to remote data collection methods as discussed below;
Phone surveys offer interviewer-mediated research, where enumerators play a critical role in ensuring respondent survey comprehension and completion. These surveys can be deployed rapidly, implemented at lower costs than in-person surveys, and capture both qualitative and quantitative data. Although respondents must have access to mobile phones. This method facilitates the collection of data from respondents with low levels of literacy.
Decentralized Remote Interviews is an in-person interviewing technique in which enumerators use tablets, smartphones, or laptop computers to move through interviews and record responses. Remote interviews can overcome traditional processes of travel and in-person training via remote recruitment, onboarding, training, and supervisor accompaniment.
Computer-assisted web interviews- As a self-enumeration method, also known as web or online surveys, can be administered widely, quickly, and inexpensively. This method is less disruptive for respondents than phone surveys and can capture more data than SMS surveys. It can also facilitate better, the participation of respondents who are geographically inaccessible or unavailable for in-person interviews. Respondents must be literate and have access to internet-connected smartphones, tablets, or laptop computers.
SMS surveys facilitate the collection of data from respondents via messaging on mobile phones and can be administered widely, quickly, and economically. They are most effective for short surveys with straightforward questions. Respondents must have mobile phones, phone service, and high literacy levels.
Finally, Mobile data collection apps are becoming integral to secure, reliable, and scalable research. The efficiency and reliability of these mobile data collection applications in offline settings open doors to new research possibilities. It begins with the freedom and adaptability of designing research-specific forms that work even in the most challenging environments; it continues with secure and collaborative data entry and ends with faster data analysis and visualization. The most common Mobile data collection platforms include; Google forms, SurveyCTO, Google Earth (Spatial Data), Kobotoolbox, Open Data Kit (ODK Collect), REDcap, Cloud GIS, and Fulcrum. The adoption of these methods is meant to help Bomet University College achieve its vision to be a premier Green University in fostering Research excellence in Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainability.
Prepared By; Wechuli D. Ayoma and Echwa Ewoi