Discussion Series: The three principles that guided ODK's design

Hi, I'm Yaw Anokwa.

I was lucky to be there at the beginning of Open Data Kit (ODK), so I
figured I'd kick off the discussion series with a bit of history.

Gaetano Borriello created ODK. It was his idea that started the
project and his focus on researching technology that improves the
lives of the underserved that created this community.

When Carl Hartung, Waylon Brunette, and I started building ODK with
Gaetano in 2008, he had just been diagnosed with cancer. Although he
was given a few months to live, he refused to change course, instead
doubling down on making ODK a reality.

Carl, Waylon, and I were his Ph.D. students at the time and he laid
out three principles to guide ODK's design.

Put mobile data collection on the technology curve

When we started ODK, mobile data collection was not common. Those who
dared to try it had to use one-off systems built on PDAs, feature
phones, or SMS. While this basic technology was sufficient for some
use-cases, these tools couldn't easily capture the rich structured
data (e.g., GPS location, photos and videos, sensor data) that
organizations we had spoken with needed. Moreover, the one-off
approach resulted in wasteful reinvention of the same systems.

The first iPhone had only been out for a year when we started, and
already Gaetano was convinced that smartphones and cloud
infrastructure held the key to better data collection in rural
environments. Most people, myself included, thought such advanced
systems would never work in the field, but Gaetano refused to listen
to the naysayers.

He insisted that Moore's Law meant that everyone would soon have
access to mobile computing, storage, sensors, and connectivity and he
wanted to show that on this new infrastructure, we could build tools
that could help make a difference.

Create open source components that can be composed into appropriate solutions

Gaetano didn't believe in a "one size fits all" system. He wanted a
set of focused components that could be composed into an appropriate
solution for every domain. He believed that ODK should be a generic
set of tools that built on open standards and open interfaces. Gaetano
did not want data siloed in a monolithic system that was difficult to
understand, extend, or maintain.

Gaetano felt that open sourcing all the tools was the best way to
ensure that users had the ultimate choice and control. With open
source, organizations could always change the software as they saw
fit. And to ensure adoption, he encouraged us to build a vibrant and
supportive community around the tools.

Magnify human resources through technology

Gaetano was a technologist, but he also believed that technology
played a small role in any meaningful intervention. He believed that
our jobs as technologists was to spend time with users, find the most
important problems, and when appropriate, integrate with users to
build technology to help solve those problems. Technology was never
the solution. It was there to magnify the impact of those solving
problems.

So these are the three principles that Gaetano laid out in 2008.

Over the last seven years, the project has grown with contributions
from Nicki Dell, Rohit Chaudhri, Sam Sudar, Nathan Breit, Clint Tseng,
Clarice Larson, Mitch Sundt, and so many of you.

And over those same seven years, Gaetano beat the odds and fought
cancer with his unique brand of optimism. He drew strength from the
global impact that ODK has and continued to be excited about its
future.

I had a chance to sit with Gaetano the day before he passed and we
talked about that future. He asked all of us to continue to do good
work and so perhaps that's the best place to start the discussion.

What good work has ODK enabled you to do? Have the principles the
project started with helped or hurt your efforts?

Yaw Anokwa

··· -- CEO, Nafundi http://nafundi.com

Thanks for this history, Yaw.

We at the International Rescue Committee are very grateful for your efforts
and rely on ODK daily. This technology definitely fills a gap but isn't the
solution, as you say. It greatly helps our field staff, who work with the
displaced and distressed, to do their jobs more effectively and
efficiently, which raises our overall level of service.

The fact that ODK is open source has allowed us to create solutions, like
our Commodity Tracking System (CTS) https://github.com/theirc/CTS, whose
sum is greater than the parts.

··· On Monday, October 5, 2015 at 9:33:09 PM UTC+3, Yaw Anokwa wrote: > > Hi, I'm Yaw Anokwa. > > I was lucky to be there at the beginning of Open Data Kit (ODK), so I > figured I'd kick off the discussion series with a bit of history. > > Gaetano Borriello created ODK. It was his idea that started the > project and his focus on researching technology that improves the > lives of the underserved that created this community. > > When Carl Hartung, Waylon Brunette, and I started building ODK with > Gaetano in 2008, he had just been diagnosed with cancer. Although he > was given a few months to live, he refused to change course, instead > doubling down on making ODK a reality. > > Carl, Waylon, and I were his Ph.D. students at the time and he laid > out three principles to guide ODK's design. > > > # Put mobile data collection on the technology curve > > When we started ODK, mobile data collection was not common. Those who > dared to try it had to use one-off systems built on PDAs, feature > phones, or SMS. While this basic technology was sufficient for some > use-cases, these tools couldn't easily capture the rich structured > data (e.g., GPS location, photos and videos, sensor data) that > organizations we had spoken with needed. Moreover, the one-off > approach resulted in wasteful reinvention of the same systems. > > The first iPhone had only been out for a year when we started, and > already Gaetano was convinced that smartphones and cloud > infrastructure held the key to better data collection in rural > environments. Most people, myself included, thought such advanced > systems would never work in the field, but Gaetano refused to listen > to the naysayers. > > He insisted that Moore's Law meant that everyone would soon have > access to mobile computing, storage, sensors, and connectivity and he > wanted to show that on this new infrastructure, we could build tools > that could help make a difference. > > > # Create open source components that can be composed into appropriate > solutions > > Gaetano didn't believe in a "one size fits all" system. He wanted a > set of focused components that could be composed into an appropriate > solution for every domain. He believed that ODK should be a generic > set of tools that built on open standards and open interfaces. Gaetano > did not want data siloed in a monolithic system that was difficult to > understand, extend, or maintain. > > Gaetano felt that open sourcing all the tools was the best way to > ensure that users had the ultimate choice and control. With open > source, organizations could always change the software as they saw > fit. And to ensure adoption, he encouraged us to build a vibrant and > supportive community around the tools. > > > # Magnify human resources through technology > > Gaetano was a technologist, but he also believed that technology > played a small role in any meaningful intervention. He believed that > our jobs as technologists was to spend time with users, find the most > important problems, and when appropriate, integrate with users to > build technology to help solve those problems. Technology was never > the solution. It was there to magnify the impact of those solving > problems. > > > So these are the three principles that Gaetano laid out in 2008. > > Over the last seven years, the project has grown with contributions > from Nicki Dell, Rohit Chaudhri, Sam Sudar, Nathan Breit, Clint Tseng, > Clarice Larson, Mitch Sundt, and so many of you. > > And over those same seven years, Gaetano beat the odds and fought > cancer with his unique brand of optimism. He drew strength from the > global impact that ODK has and continued to be excited about its > future. > > I had a chance to sit with Gaetano the day before he passed and we > talked about that future. He asked all of us to continue to do good > work and so perhaps that's the best place to start the discussion. > > What good work has ODK enabled you to do? Have the principles the > project started with helped or hurt your efforts? > > > Yaw Anokwa > -- > CEO, Nafundi > http://nafundi.com >

Thanks, Yaw!

I have to say that the commitment to open-sourcing -- and, specifically, to
allowing and even encouraging both customization and commercialization --
has been instrumental in allowing us to build atop the ODK foundations and
offer a paid, hosted, supported version of ODK that has empowered hundreds
of users to collect literally millions of submissions in over 50 countries.
A less generous, less permissive approach to open-sourcing would have been
completely understandable -- but would have entirely prevented us from
expanding ODK's reach to an ever growing number of researchers and M&E
professionals.

This commitment to "magnifying human resources through technology" is a
goal that we here at Dobility share wholeheartedly, and it's something we
have in part inherited from Gaetano and the entire ODK team. We're
passionate about getting great technology into the hands of the people for
whom it can be most useful, into the hands of the people closest to real
needs on the ground. From the core ODK platform to the many spin-offs like
SurveyCTO, great data-collection technology has reached a staggering number
of people and met a truly impressive range of needs. None of that would
have been possible without the kind of vision that you describe.

Our entire team here has benefited from (and depended on!) the generosity
and open-mindedness of Gaetano, you, Mitch, and many others in the ODK
community. We're grateful for the opportunities it has created for us and
for our users, and we're grateful for the small part we've been allowed to
play in expanding the social good created by ODK.

Thanks again for getting this discussion started.

All the best,

Chris

··· --- Christopher Robert Dobility, Inc. (SurveyCTO) http://www.surveycto.com/ http://blog.surveycto.com/

On Mon, Oct 5, 2015 at 2:33 PM Yaw Anokwa yanokwa@nafundi.com wrote:

Hi, I'm Yaw Anokwa.

I was lucky to be there at the beginning of Open Data Kit (ODK), so I
figured I'd kick off the discussion series with a bit of history.

Gaetano Borriello created ODK. It was his idea that started the
project and his focus on researching technology that improves the
lives of the underserved that created this community.

When Carl Hartung, Waylon Brunette, and I started building ODK with
Gaetano in 2008, he had just been diagnosed with cancer. Although he
was given a few months to live, he refused to change course, instead
doubling down on making ODK a reality.

Carl, Waylon, and I were his Ph.D. students at the time and he laid
out three principles to guide ODK's design.

Put mobile data collection on the technology curve

When we started ODK, mobile data collection was not common. Those who
dared to try it had to use one-off systems built on PDAs, feature
phones, or SMS. While this basic technology was sufficient for some
use-cases, these tools couldn't easily capture the rich structured
data (e.g., GPS location, photos and videos, sensor data) that
organizations we had spoken with needed. Moreover, the one-off
approach resulted in wasteful reinvention of the same systems.

The first iPhone had only been out for a year when we started, and
already Gaetano was convinced that smartphones and cloud
infrastructure held the key to better data collection in rural
environments. Most people, myself included, thought such advanced
systems would never work in the field, but Gaetano refused to listen
to the naysayers.

He insisted that Moore's Law meant that everyone would soon have
access to mobile computing, storage, sensors, and connectivity and he
wanted to show that on this new infrastructure, we could build tools
that could help make a difference.

Create open source components that can be composed into appropriate

solutions

Gaetano didn't believe in a "one size fits all" system. He wanted a
set of focused components that could be composed into an appropriate
solution for every domain. He believed that ODK should be a generic
set of tools that built on open standards and open interfaces. Gaetano
did not want data siloed in a monolithic system that was difficult to
understand, extend, or maintain.

Gaetano felt that open sourcing all the tools was the best way to
ensure that users had the ultimate choice and control. With open
source, organizations could always change the software as they saw
fit. And to ensure adoption, he encouraged us to build a vibrant and
supportive community around the tools.

Magnify human resources through technology

Gaetano was a technologist, but he also believed that technology
played a small role in any meaningful intervention. He believed that
our jobs as technologists was to spend time with users, find the most
important problems, and when appropriate, integrate with users to
build technology to help solve those problems. Technology was never
the solution. It was there to magnify the impact of those solving
problems.

So these are the three principles that Gaetano laid out in 2008.

Over the last seven years, the project has grown with contributions
from Nicki Dell, Rohit Chaudhri, Sam Sudar, Nathan Breit, Clint Tseng,
Clarice Larson, Mitch Sundt, and so many of you.

And over those same seven years, Gaetano beat the odds and fought
cancer with his unique brand of optimism. He drew strength from the
global impact that ODK has and continued to be excited about its
future.

I had a chance to sit with Gaetano the day before he passed and we
talked about that future. He asked all of us to continue to do good
work and so perhaps that's the best place to start the discussion.

What good work has ODK enabled you to do? Have the principles the
project started with helped or hurt your efforts?

Yaw Anokwa

CEO, Nafundi
http://nafundi.com

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Hi Yaw, Thank you for kick starting the ODK Discussion Series with a great post. It is very inspiring to know the history behind the ODK project and the passion and commitment with which the team started this initiative.

The most enduring and critical decision to keep ODK open source is testimony to the sincerity of the intent that the team had in ensuring that the ODK project contributes to the bottom line of making the work of the duty bearers efficient and improve the over all effectiveness of the programs it is implemented for. At SDRC we have successfully applied ODK in around 15 human development interventions across multiple sectors, like health, education, climate change, WASH etc, in India and Philippines.

We thrilled to be a part of the ODK community. It gives us great satisfaction and pride to be code contributor to the ODK project and we look for ward to many more contributions in the future.

Looking forward to many more successful years ahead for the ODK project.

Regards,
Narasingha
SDRC Pvt Ltd
www.sdrc.co.in

··· On Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at 12:03:09 AM UTC+5:30, Yaw Anokwa wrote: > Hi, I'm Yaw Anokwa. > > I was lucky to be there at the beginning of Open Data Kit (ODK), so I > figured I'd kick off the discussion series with a bit of history. > > Gaetano Borriello created ODK. It was his idea that started the > project and his focus on researching technology that improves the > lives of the underserved that created this community. > > When Carl Hartung, Waylon Brunette, and I started building ODK with > Gaetano in 2008, he had just been diagnosed with cancer. Although he > was given a few months to live, he refused to change course, instead > doubling down on making ODK a reality. > > Carl, Waylon, and I were his Ph.D. students at the time and he laid > out three principles to guide ODK's design. > > > # Put mobile data collection on the technology curve > > When we started ODK, mobile data collection was not common. Those who > dared to try it had to use one-off systems built on PDAs, feature > phones, or SMS. While this basic technology was sufficient for some > use-cases, these tools couldn't easily capture the rich structured > data (e.g., GPS location, photos and videos, sensor data) that > organizations we had spoken with needed. Moreover, the one-off > approach resulted in wasteful reinvention of the same systems. > > The first iPhone had only been out for a year when we started, and > already Gaetano was convinced that smartphones and cloud > infrastructure held the key to better data collection in rural > environments. Most people, myself included, thought such advanced > systems would never work in the field, but Gaetano refused to listen > to the naysayers. > > He insisted that Moore's Law meant that everyone would soon have > access to mobile computing, storage, sensors, and connectivity and he > wanted to show that on this new infrastructure, we could build tools > that could help make a difference. > > > # Create open source components that can be composed into appropriate solutions > > Gaetano didn't believe in a "one size fits all" system. He wanted a > set of focused components that could be composed into an appropriate > solution for every domain. He believed that ODK should be a generic > set of tools that built on open standards and open interfaces. Gaetano > did not want data siloed in a monolithic system that was difficult to > understand, extend, or maintain. > > Gaetano felt that open sourcing all the tools was the best way to > ensure that users had the ultimate choice and control. With open > source, organizations could always change the software as they saw > fit. And to ensure adoption, he encouraged us to build a vibrant and > supportive community around the tools. > > > # Magnify human resources through technology > > Gaetano was a technologist, but he also believed that technology > played a small role in any meaningful intervention. He believed that > our jobs as technologists was to spend time with users, find the most > important problems, and when appropriate, integrate with users to > build technology to help solve those problems. Technology was never > the solution. It was there to magnify the impact of those solving > problems. > > > So these are the three principles that Gaetano laid out in 2008. > > Over the last seven years, the project has grown with contributions > from Nicki Dell, Rohit Chaudhri, Sam Sudar, Nathan Breit, Clint Tseng, > Clarice Larson, Mitch Sundt, and so many of you. > > And over those same seven years, Gaetano beat the odds and fought > cancer with his unique brand of optimism. He drew strength from the > global impact that ODK has and continued to be excited about its > future. > > I had a chance to sit with Gaetano the day before he passed and we > talked about that future. He asked all of us to continue to do good > work and so perhaps that's the best place to start the discussion. > > What good work has ODK enabled you to do? Have the principles the > project started with helped or hurt your efforts? > > > Yaw Anokwa > -- > CEO, Nafundi > http://nafundi.com

Thanks Yaw for all this background information and details of the
principles of ODK.

As a strong supporters of the ODK infrastructure we have greatly benefited
and improved the capacity of our local team. ODK has given us the freedom
we often miss when going to proprietary black boxes available in the
market. I think this is the result of going open and transparency in the
development of ODK.

Regarding the users, with ODK we have come to understand how important are
users to the project and how even the most perfect solution needs
negotiating and convincing the enumerators in a community where
developments and progress are introduced in a democratic way.

Many thanks and as always keep the good work up,

Juan

··· Le lundi 5 octobre 2015 13:33:09 UTC-5, Yaw Anokwa a écrit : > > Hi, I'm Yaw Anokwa. > > I was lucky to be there at the beginning of Open Data Kit (ODK), so I > figured I'd kick off the discussion series with a bit of history. > > Gaetano Borriello created ODK. It was his idea that started the > project and his focus on researching technology that improves the > lives of the underserved that created this community. > > When Carl Hartung, Waylon Brunette, and I started building ODK with > Gaetano in 2008, he had just been diagnosed with cancer. Although he > was given a few months to live, he refused to change course, instead > doubling down on making ODK a reality. > > Carl, Waylon, and I were his Ph.D. students at the time and he laid > out three principles to guide ODK's design. > > > # Put mobile data collection on the technology curve > > When we started ODK, mobile data collection was not common. Those who > dared to try it had to use one-off systems built on PDAs, feature > phones, or SMS. While this basic technology was sufficient for some > use-cases, these tools couldn't easily capture the rich structured > data (e.g., GPS location, photos and videos, sensor data) that > organizations we had spoken with needed. Moreover, the one-off > approach resulted in wasteful reinvention of the same systems. > > The first iPhone had only been out for a year when we started, and > already Gaetano was convinced that smartphones and cloud > infrastructure held the key to better data collection in rural > environments. Most people, myself included, thought such advanced > systems would never work in the field, but Gaetano refused to listen > to the naysayers. > > He insisted that Moore's Law meant that everyone would soon have > access to mobile computing, storage, sensors, and connectivity and he > wanted to show that on this new infrastructure, we could build tools > that could help make a difference. > > > # Create open source components that can be composed into appropriate > solutions > > Gaetano didn't believe in a "one size fits all" system. He wanted a > set of focused components that could be composed into an appropriate > solution for every domain. He believed that ODK should be a generic > set of tools that built on open standards and open interfaces. Gaetano > did not want data siloed in a monolithic system that was difficult to > understand, extend, or maintain. > > Gaetano felt that open sourcing all the tools was the best way to > ensure that users had the ultimate choice and control. With open > source, organizations could always change the software as they saw > fit. And to ensure adoption, he encouraged us to build a vibrant and > supportive community around the tools. > > > # Magnify human resources through technology > > Gaetano was a technologist, but he also believed that technology > played a small role in any meaningful intervention. He believed that > our jobs as technologists was to spend time with users, find the most > important problems, and when appropriate, integrate with users to > build technology to help solve those problems. Technology was never > the solution. It was there to magnify the impact of those solving > problems. > > > So these are the three principles that Gaetano laid out in 2008. > > Over the last seven years, the project has grown with contributions > from Nicki Dell, Rohit Chaudhri, Sam Sudar, Nathan Breit, Clint Tseng, > Clarice Larson, Mitch Sundt, and so many of you. > > And over those same seven years, Gaetano beat the odds and fought > cancer with his unique brand of optimism. He drew strength from the > global impact that ODK has and continued to be excited about its > future. > > I had a chance to sit with Gaetano the day before he passed and we > talked about that future. He asked all of us to continue to do good > work and so perhaps that's the best place to start the discussion. > > What good work has ODK enabled you to do? Have the principles the > project started with helped or hurt your efforts? > > > Yaw Anokwa > -- > CEO, Nafundi > http://nafundi.com >

Dear Yaw and the rest of the ODK team,

Thanks for this inspiring history of ODK. I knew most of it but learned a lot anyway, and it was really moving to read it. I’ll throw out a few questions as well, but no need to answer them, of course.

That’s a great point about how Gaetano was looking ahead, beyond what looked feasible at the time. I know that is happening still with the UW research team working on ODK and related topics. Now that smartphones don’t seem so futuristic, are there new things that you often have to tell the skeptics will be feasible in the near future if not now?

You’ve been involved in many open source projects. Are there are particular approaches or attitudes that ODK deliberately adopted or avoided to organize and support the ODK community. Are there ODK meetings for example?

And of course that is an important principle about technology not being the solution. These days, do you ever not recommend mobile technology for a data collection? Are there circumstances where paper is still the best approach for that? Do you, or others, by chance have other (fun or illustrative) examples of other types of problems where you’ve discouraged the use of ODK or mobile technology based on this principle.

thanks again!

neal

··· From: opendatakit@googlegroups.com [mailto:opendatakit@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Christopher Robert Sent: Tuesday, October 06, 2015 11:23 AM To: opendatakit@googlegroups.com Subject: Re: [ODK Community] Discussion Series: The three principles that guided ODK's design

Thanks, Yaw!

I have to say that the commitment to open-sourcing -- and, specifically, to allowing and even encouraging both customization and commercialization -- has been instrumental in allowing us to build atop the ODK foundations and offer a paid, hosted, supported version of ODK that has empowered hundreds of users to collect literally millions of submissions in over 50 countries. A less generous, less permissive approach to open-sourcing would have been completely understandable -- but would have entirely prevented us from expanding ODK's reach to an ever growing number of researchers and M&E professionals.

This commitment to "magnifying human resources through technology" is a goal that we here at Dobility share wholeheartedly, and it's something we have in part inherited from Gaetano and the entire ODK team. We're passionate about getting great technology into the hands of the people for whom it can be most useful, into the hands of the people closest to real needs on the ground. From the core ODK platform to the many spin-offs like SurveyCTO, great data-collection technology has reached a staggering number of people and met a truly impressive range of needs. None of that would have been possible without the kind of vision that you describe.

Our entire team here has benefited from (and depended on!) the generosity and open-mindedness of Gaetano, you, Mitch, and many others in the ODK community. We're grateful for the opportunities it has created for us and for our users, and we're grateful for the small part we've been allowed to play in expanding the social good created by ODK.

Thanks again for getting this discussion started.

All the best,

Chris


Christopher Robert

Dobility, Inc. (SurveyCTO)

On Mon, Oct 5, 2015 at 2:33 PM Yaw Anokwa <yanokwa@nafundi.com mailto:yanokwa@nafundi.com > wrote:

Hi, I'm Yaw Anokwa.

I was lucky to be there at the beginning of Open Data Kit (ODK), so I
figured I'd kick off the discussion series with a bit of history.

Gaetano Borriello created ODK. It was his idea that started the
project and his focus on researching technology that improves the
lives of the underserved that created this community.

When Carl Hartung, Waylon Brunette, and I started building ODK with
Gaetano in 2008, he had just been diagnosed with cancer. Although he
was given a few months to live, he refused to change course, instead
doubling down on making ODK a reality.

Carl, Waylon, and I were his Ph.D. students at the time and he laid
out three principles to guide ODK's design.

Put mobile data collection on the technology curve

When we started ODK, mobile data collection was not common. Those who
dared to try it had to use one-off systems built on PDAs, feature
phones, or SMS. While this basic technology was sufficient for some
use-cases, these tools couldn't easily capture the rich structured
data (e.g., GPS location, photos and videos, sensor data) that
organizations we had spoken with needed. Moreover, the one-off
approach resulted in wasteful reinvention of the same systems.

The first iPhone had only been out for a year when we started, and
already Gaetano was convinced that smartphones and cloud
infrastructure held the key to better data collection in rural
environments. Most people, myself included, thought such advanced
systems would never work in the field, but Gaetano refused to listen
to the naysayers.

He insisted that Moore's Law meant that everyone would soon have
access to mobile computing, storage, sensors, and connectivity and he
wanted to show that on this new infrastructure, we could build tools
that could help make a difference.

Create open source components that can be composed into appropriate solutions

Gaetano didn't believe in a "one size fits all" system. He wanted a
set of focused components that could be composed into an appropriate
solution for every domain. He believed that ODK should be a generic
set of tools that built on open standards and open interfaces. Gaetano
did not want data siloed in a monolithic system that was difficult to
understand, extend, or maintain.

Gaetano felt that open sourcing all the tools was the best way to
ensure that users had the ultimate choice and control. With open
source, organizations could always change the software as they saw
fit. And to ensure adoption, he encouraged us to build a vibrant and
supportive community around the tools.

Magnify human resources through technology

Gaetano was a technologist, but he also believed that technology
played a small role in any meaningful intervention. He believed that
our jobs as technologists was to spend time with users, find the most
important problems, and when appropriate, integrate with users to
build technology to help solve those problems. Technology was never
the solution. It was there to magnify the impact of those solving
problems.

So these are the three principles that Gaetano laid out in 2008.

Over the last seven years, the project has grown with contributions
from Nicki Dell, Rohit Chaudhri, Sam Sudar, Nathan Breit, Clint Tseng,
Clarice Larson, Mitch Sundt, and so many of you.

And over those same seven years, Gaetano beat the odds and fought
cancer with his unique brand of optimism. He drew strength from the
global impact that ODK has and continued to be excited about its
future.

I had a chance to sit with Gaetano the day before he passed and we
talked about that future. He asked all of us to continue to do good
work and so perhaps that's the best place to start the discussion.

What good work has ODK enabled you to do? Have the principles the
project started with helped or hurt your efforts?

Yaw Anokwa

CEO, Nafundi
http://nafundi.com

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Neal,

I wanted to think more about before responding, then one thing led to
another, and here we are two weeks later. Better late than never,
right?

I'm not blindly loyal to mobile data collection as the solution to
every problem, but collecting data on paper is on the decline, and
understandably so. The richness and timeliness of data you get on
mobile paired with the low cost and robustness of the tools makes it
an easy sell.

At Nafundi, we do come across situations where mobile isn't viable.
For example, we are involved in polio vaccination campaigns in
conflict zones where carrying a GPS-enabled phones can be all the
reason someone needs to shoot you.

In those situations, you have to work with the community to understand
the context, design a great paper form, and put together a process
where you can get the paper accurately digitized as soon as possible.
Tools like ODK Scan and Captricity can help there.

As far as your question about open source, skeptics, and the future, I
think they are all related.

What makes or breaks an open source project is how committed the
individuals in the project are. I believe that as long as there are
people in the community who are willing to take the initiative, work
at making things better for everyone, and try to give more than they
take, the community will be successful.

When ODK started, core team meetings at UW and the occasional support
email on this list was a reasonable approach. There are now thousands
of people on ODK lists and hundreds of thousands of downloads of the
tools. The old approaches are now less reasonable because they put an
extraordinary amount of pressure on the core team.

Skeptics sometimes point out that folks get incredible value from ODK,
but that value isn't always returned to the project in the ways it
needs to grow. Tragedy of the commons and all that. I agree with the
skeptics that it's a problem, but I think it's a good problem to have!
Everyone who has contributed to ODK has helped to create a thing of
value and our challenge is to make sure that the project continues to
grow.

So while the core team focuses on shipping ODK 2.0, our team at
Nafundi has been experimenting with how to build more sustainable
processes (everything from funding streams to distributed code review
to better documentation) for ODK as a whole so the community can scale
with the tools. As always, we need help. Any volunteers?

Yaw

··· -- Need ODK consultants? https://nafundi.com provides form design, server setup, in-field training, and software development for ODK.

On Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 5:21 PM, neal lesh nlesh@dimagi.com wrote:

Dear Yaw and the rest of the ODK team,

Thanks for this inspiring history of ODK. I knew most of it but learned a
lot anyway, and it was really moving to read it. I’ll throw out a few
questions as well, but no need to answer them, of course.

That’s a great point about how Gaetano was looking ahead, beyond what looked
feasible at the time. I know that is happening still with the UW research
team working on ODK and related topics. Now that smartphones don’t seem so
futuristic, are there new things that you often have to tell the skeptics
will be feasible in the near future if not now?

You’ve been involved in many open source projects. Are there are particular
approaches or attitudes that ODK deliberately adopted or avoided to organize
and support the ODK community. Are there ODK meetings for example?

And of course that is an important principle about technology not being the
solution. These days, do you ever not recommend mobile technology for a data
collection? Are there circumstances where paper is still the best approach
for that? Do you, or others, by chance have other (fun or illustrative)
examples of other types of problems where you’ve discouraged the use of ODK
or mobile technology based on this principle.

thanks again!

neal

From: opendatakit@googlegroups.com [mailto:opendatakit@googlegroups.com] On
Behalf Of Christopher Robert
Sent: Tuesday, October 06, 2015 11:23 AM
To: opendatakit@googlegroups.com
Subject: Re: [ODK Community] Discussion Series: The three principles that
guided ODK's design

Thanks, Yaw!

I have to say that the commitment to open-sourcing -- and, specifically, to
allowing and even encouraging both customization and commercialization --
has been instrumental in allowing us to build atop the ODK foundations and
offer a paid, hosted, supported version of ODK that has empowered hundreds
of users to collect literally millions of submissions in over 50 countries.
A less generous, less permissive approach to open-sourcing would have been
completely understandable -- but would have entirely prevented us from
expanding ODK's reach to an ever growing number of researchers and M&E
professionals.

This commitment to "magnifying human resources through technology" is a goal
that we here at Dobility share wholeheartedly, and it's something we have in
part inherited from Gaetano and the entire ODK team. We're passionate about
getting great technology into the hands of the people for whom it can be
most useful, into the hands of the people closest to real needs on the
ground. From the core ODK platform to the many spin-offs like SurveyCTO,
great data-collection technology has reached a staggering number of people
and met a truly impressive range of needs. None of that would have been
possible without the kind of vision that you describe.

Our entire team here has benefited from (and depended on!) the generosity
and open-mindedness of Gaetano, you, Mitch, and many others in the ODK
community. We're grateful for the opportunities it has created for us and
for our users, and we're grateful for the small part we've been allowed to
play in expanding the social good created by ODK.

Thanks again for getting this discussion started.

All the best,

Chris


Christopher Robert

Dobility, Inc. (SurveyCTO)

http://www.surveycto.com/

http://blog.surveycto.com/

On Mon, Oct 5, 2015 at 2:33 PM Yaw Anokwa yanokwa@nafundi.com wrote:

Hi, I'm Yaw Anokwa.

I was lucky to be there at the beginning of Open Data Kit (ODK), so I
figured I'd kick off the discussion series with a bit of history.

Gaetano Borriello created ODK. It was his idea that started the
project and his focus on researching technology that improves the
lives of the underserved that created this community.

When Carl Hartung, Waylon Brunette, and I started building ODK with
Gaetano in 2008, he had just been diagnosed with cancer. Although he
was given a few months to live, he refused to change course, instead
doubling down on making ODK a reality.

Carl, Waylon, and I were his Ph.D. students at the time and he laid
out three principles to guide ODK's design.

Put mobile data collection on the technology curve

When we started ODK, mobile data collection was not common. Those who
dared to try it had to use one-off systems built on PDAs, feature
phones, or SMS. While this basic technology was sufficient for some
use-cases, these tools couldn't easily capture the rich structured
data (e.g., GPS location, photos and videos, sensor data) that
organizations we had spoken with needed. Moreover, the one-off
approach resulted in wasteful reinvention of the same systems.

The first iPhone had only been out for a year when we started, and
already Gaetano was convinced that smartphones and cloud
infrastructure held the key to better data collection in rural
environments. Most people, myself included, thought such advanced
systems would never work in the field, but Gaetano refused to listen
to the naysayers.

He insisted that Moore's Law meant that everyone would soon have
access to mobile computing, storage, sensors, and connectivity and he
wanted to show that on this new infrastructure, we could build tools
that could help make a difference.

Create open source components that can be composed into appropriate

solutions

Gaetano didn't believe in a "one size fits all" system. He wanted a
set of focused components that could be composed into an appropriate
solution for every domain. He believed that ODK should be a generic
set of tools that built on open standards and open interfaces. Gaetano
did not want data siloed in a monolithic system that was difficult to
understand, extend, or maintain.

Gaetano felt that open sourcing all the tools was the best way to
ensure that users had the ultimate choice and control. With open
source, organizations could always change the software as they saw
fit. And to ensure adoption, he encouraged us to build a vibrant and
supportive community around the tools.

Magnify human resources through technology

Gaetano was a technologist, but he also believed that technology
played a small role in any meaningful intervention. He believed that
our jobs as technologists was to spend time with users, find the most
important problems, and when appropriate, integrate with users to
build technology to help solve those problems. Technology was never
the solution. It was there to magnify the impact of those solving
problems.

So these are the three principles that Gaetano laid out in 2008.

Over the last seven years, the project has grown with contributions
from Nicki Dell, Rohit Chaudhri, Sam Sudar, Nathan Breit, Clint Tseng,
Clarice Larson, Mitch Sundt, and so many of you.

And over those same seven years, Gaetano beat the odds and fought
cancer with his unique brand of optimism. He drew strength from the
global impact that ODK has and continued to be excited about its
future.

I had a chance to sit with Gaetano the day before he passed and we
talked about that future. He asked all of us to continue to do good
work and so perhaps that's the best place to start the discussion.

What good work has ODK enabled you to do? Have the principles the
project started with helped or hurt your efforts?

Yaw Anokwa

CEO, Nafundi
http://nafundi.com

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Hi Yaw and all,

Thanks for great information on ODK. And Neal thanks for starting off this discussion.

Yaw, I would like to offer to volunteer in building more sustainable process to the ODK community. Where do I begin?

Ezekiel

Dear Yaw and rest of the odk team
At first many many thanks to your contribution for odk platform. We are doing at least 30 small and big development project based on odk such as Breast Cancer Screening project, vaccination tracking,farmer query system and lots of other M&E & research project in Bangladesh.

Hope ODK will be one of the greatest open source platform for solving development problem.

Thanks
Arif

Ezekiel,

I've sent you an email off list.

Yaw

··· -- Need ODK consultants? https://nafundi.com provides form design, server setup, in-field training, and software development for ODK.

On Fri, Oct 30, 2015 at 2:06 PM, inspectordanger@gmail.com wrote:

Hi Yaw and all,

Thanks for great information on ODK. And Neal thanks for starting off this discussion.

Yaw, I would like to offer to volunteer in building more sustainable process to the ODK community. Where do I begin?

Ezekiel

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Thanks for your dedication towards this Yaw. It is as you mention not the
"Final Solution" but by far it is the simplest solution for third world
countries such as Guyana where cost for software etc plays a great factor
in management making decisions in relation to software procurement that
would enable a smoother flow of data. When you can turn up in a management
meeting with a solution as using ODK and explain to managers in these parts
of the world that 85% of everything is free and you just have to pay for
someone to do the development and training they are all excited.

Again,
Thanks.

Rox.

···

On 2 November 2015 at 00:26, Yaw Anokwa yanokwa@nafundi.com wrote:

Ezekiel,

I've sent you an email off list.

Yaw

Need ODK consultants? https://nafundi.com provides form design, server
setup, in-field training, and software development for ODK.

On Fri, Oct 30, 2015 at 2:06 PM, inspectordanger@gmail.com wrote:

Hi Yaw and all,

Thanks for great information on ODK. And Neal thanks for starting off
this discussion.

Yaw, I would like to offer to volunteer in building more sustainable
process to the ODK community. Where do I begin?

Ezekiel

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And thanks right back, Saeem! I don't think ODK can solve all of
development, but we can at least help those who work in development
get more data accurately and quickly.

Yaw

··· -- Need ODK consultants? https://nafundi.com provides form design, server setup, in-field training, and software development for ODK.

On Sat, Oct 31, 2015 at 10:47 AM, Saeem Arif saeem.arif@gmail.com wrote:

Dear Yaw and rest of the odk team
At first many many thanks to your contribution for odk platform. We are doing at least 30 small and big development project based on odk such as Breast Cancer Screening project, vaccination tracking,farmer query system and lots of other M&E & research project in Bangladesh.

Hope ODK will be one of the greatest open source platform for solving development problem.

Thanks
Arif

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