We’ve provided tools on when to choose paper or mobile for data collection. Now we’re providing a tool to help budget for mobile data collection deployment. It is often quoted that MDC is more cost effective than traditional paper data collection. Though the level of cost effectiveness will vary from project to project there are common costs to consider when estimating the budget for a mobile-system and they are as follows (the following is taken from mobile-based technology for m&e):
- Hardware costs: Are your field staff full-time or part-time or contractual employees? How many field staff do you have? Is it better to purchase mobile devices for your staff, or to incentivize them to use their own devices? If you purchase mobile phones or tablets, you can amortize hardware costs by assuming the devices usable lifetime to be minimum 2 years, and breakage or loss rate to be around 5 per cent over the 2-year period.
- Data transmission costs: These are mainly recurring costs incurred by SMS, USSD or mobile-internet (GPRS/3G) usage. In certain countries, you may also incur one-time set-up cost for dedicated services such as SMS short-codes.
- Data aggregation costs: These are recurrent costs that only apply if you use remote, web-based data aggregation and hosting. Your technology vendor or you will need to subscribe to a server-hosting (or cloud computing) service provider.
- Management costs: The mobile-system will require an internal or out-sourced team to manage and support it. These costs will depend on the scale at which the mobile-system is being implemented.
With the above 4 considerations here is a budget template for piloting mobile data collection. Download the excel file here.