New to the field, would like a 10.000ft overview

Hi guys,

I’m new to the field, and after a few days reviewing what’s out there, I’m confused about what tool/platform should I start learning. I recently joined a statistical services consultancy firm. They have participated in several projects involving surveys in African countries and for different organizations/programs (WHO, UNICEF, GAIN). They’ve used CSPro and ODK in the past, but nobody could explain the selection criteria (some employee turnover in the last few years).

I’m mostly interested in using an Free/Open Source solution. So long I’ve narrowed it down to CSPro (free but not Open Source), Open Data Kit and Kobo Toolbox.

I searched the forum and only could find a couple of (semi) related questions, one of which is probably dated by now (2011)

So basically my question is:

Do these tools overlap in functionality? I guess the answer is (partially?) yes, but I’d like to understand what are the similarities and what are the differences. One thing that really boggles me is that if you google ODK vs CSPro you won’t find much, which makes me wonder if these are actually competing offerings.

Just as some added background, I’m a software engineer, and I joined the firm to bring a robust IT solution for data collection.

Thanks for any help on this and please feel free to redirect me is this is not the appropriate forum/channel

Hi @Awer_Muller,
Thanks so much for your question! I'm afraid I can't directly answer your question, as I don't have any experience with CSPro myself.

However, there is one resource that I thought could be helpful when looking at data collection solutions, it's a couple years old, but I think gives a nice overview for benchmarking different data collection solutions, and potentially how to compare different tools (e.g., what questions to think through).

If this is helpful, great - if not, hopefully someone else pitches in with some actual knowledge of both tools that you're looking into!

My best,


Some additional comments/notes:


  • I think XLSForm is valuable to learn and important for both KoBo and ODK.
  • Kobo Collect and ODK Collect are near identical for your data collectors (since KoBo Collect is ODK Collect).
  • Good survey design is just as key, if not more so, than the software. As is leveraging the automated/facilitated survey logic and etc possible in a digital tool. As is a data analysis plan created before you collect your data.
  • ODK is the core of the ecosystem and widely used in humanitarian, development, civic, environmental, health, etc.
  • There are lots of opportunities to contribute to (and benefit from) the ODK community on the software, documentation, user support, futures roadmap, etc.


  • ODK Aggregate allows giving users different permissions but each instance is generally for a single organization or project.
  • ODK Central is a modern sibling to Aggregate that is easier to install, easier to use, and more extensible with new features and functionality both directly in the software and with the use of our REST, OpenRosa, and OData programmatic APIs. It provides better use controls and permissions for user access and campaign administration.
  • Central makes it easy to encrypt your forms and data.
  • Aggregate is easier to setup than KoBo, and Central the easiest of the three. IMHO.
  • AFAIK, there is no public instance of ODK servers for people to use, although there are sandboxes people can use to test: &
  • There is the separate ODK Build for a graphic form builder. Forms can be written in Excel using XLSForm syntax.


  • The server component of KoBoToolbox includes the ability to have multiple segregated accounts. It is designed in such a way that a single instance (e.g. can easily have multiple organizations using it.
  • OCHA currently makes available two publicly-available instances of KoBoToolbox.
  • Setting up and maintaining your own KoBo server is an involved process.
  • There is a built-in graphic user form builder. But some number of users, myself included, just author forms in a spreadsheet using XLSForm syntax and these are compatible with both KoBo and ODK (and several other data collection tools).
  • KoBo Collect is a re-skin of ODK Collect and besides the color and app icon is largely identical. (The only difference between the two is the name, the icon, the default settings, and time. That is, Kobo Collect is usually a few months behind ODK Collect.)

Hi Janna! Thank you very much for the link! I'll be studying it closely.

Best regards

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Hi Danbjoseph!

Thanks for your detailed reply. I was already suspecting that survey design is key, and now that you mention it I'd like to ask you if you can point me to some resources for learning that subject.

Best regards!

Here's two resources that might be good starting points:

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