ODK around the World Discussion Series: ELMO and the Carter Center

Dear ODK Community,
We are happy to share how we are extending Gaetano’s impact and ODK’s power into the fields of elections, human rights, and health. Since 2011, we’ve been building an open source platform that we call ELMO (http://getelmo.org) in order to get a real-time picture of what goes on around polling stations on election day. But since then, the ELMO data collection and analysis system has grown to be much more.

For the Carter Center, the ability of our observing teams to submit their observations of the election process (now not only through ODK, but also SMS or any browser) is part of a larger effort to ensure rigorous accountability. This is why, for example, we’ve created a template architecture that allows for the reuse of questions and forms (a standardization process that allows for comparison of information across time and contexts) as well as facilitating exports into more advanced reporting and analytical platforms (e.g. Tableau, R, Stata, MaxQDA). The ability to create multiple forms covers a range of needs— from simple weekly M&E charting (“how many drugs were distributed this week?”) to in-depth and long-text reports (“what is the political environment like is Province A?”) — thereby allowing for as rich a picture of the situation as possible.

In addition, like ODK, we are consciously open source in order to create a public good. You can see this in our drive for user friendliness and language localization, and our soon-to-be released public forums. It’s also why we actively partner with other organizations that are now using the tool for their own ends, and sometimes not just in elections (http://getelmo.org/latest-news/). In one example, our partnership in the Democratic Republic of Congo has led to a version of ELMO that can sustain 30,000 observers (a million messages) on election day. We hope that we will learn from other organizations as they take the ELMO platform in different ways that originally envisioned, and fold that wisdom back into our central hub for others.

Finally, our compatibility with other systems and organizational standards offers another hallmark of our open-source ELMO vision — h_ow to leverage the expertise of others_. As we grow, we know that many others are in intersecting fields that know how to do things better that we can alone. That’s why we continue to work with, for example, Georgia Tech on security or Emory University for intellectual synergies.

Let me take this moment to acknowledge our partners at Sassafras Tech (http://sassafras.coop/), who have been key to all of these developments. Thanks and props to them!

Feel free to browse around the site and let us know if you have any questions. In the meanwhile, thanks to the ODK community for their wonderful tool, and we hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season.

··· -- Connie Moon Sehat, Ph.D. Associate Director, Democracy Program The Carter Center


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