Why Tech4Good trains non-profits in India on ODK

Tech4Good helps nonprofits use technology confidently to reach more beneficiaries in a meaningful way & become more sustainable

Grassroots Work
Most of our work on the ground is with grassroots Community Based Organizations (CBOs). These organizations hold a rich repository of granular local information that cuts across domains; data that can be useful to other organisations and government agencies. Governments and grant making organisations in India are increasingly delegating responsibility to CBOs and relying on them to gather local concerns: to develop, plan, and help deliver solutions at scale. Knowledge and Data Management is therefore becoming crucial within the landscape - there is growing pressure on organizations to compile, sort through, store and retrieve local data efficiently & accurately.

At Tech4Good, we have introduced ODK as a replacement to manual modes of data collection to virtually all our partners. These organizations had so far recorded data on paper forms/books, expending huge amounts of resources i.e. money, time, manpower & struggling with ways to analyse this data.

Pop-up Trainings
One way we facilitate this transition is through our day long immersive workshops. So far we’ve hosted pop-ups on ODK in Bangalore, Shillong, Chennai & Hyderabad. These sessions have differing formats and audiences. They are led by ODK Experts, Tech4Good Techies or Resource People from the CBO’s we’ve worked with.

We witness crowds ranging from 15-80 people, representing nonprofits working across sectors i.e. Healthcare, Education, Women’s Rights, Indigenous People Rights, Livelihood etc.

Trainers open these sessions by introducing the various features of the tool, relying heavily on real time examples & information volunteered by the participants. This method helps keep the crowd engaged & makes the eventual buy-in easier. Such identification-based learning, in our experience, can have an enduring impression on people.

A lot of free flowing banter around technology is also encouraged: exchanging information on existing Digital Data Collection tools (Google Forms etc.); identifying different workers’ segments who can benefit from them; conversations around Data Security & an earnest evaluation of the efficacy of replacing manual modes of work with technology.

In a little under 2 months, 7 to 8 rural youth volunteers with Jagrutha Mahila Sanghatane (JMS) were trained in ODK by Google and Tech4Good teams. They now build forms, upload data & rest assured of its safety.

Google Mentors & Tech4Good Techies with the youth volunteers at JMS- Raichur, Karnataka, India.

"The tool allows for a range of information to be fed in with ease: text, image, numbers, audio, location etc. With ODK, they can collect & store data offline, which can then be extracted when needed- a critical feature for most field workers working in remote areas of the country."

– Guruprakash (Tech Lead, Tech4Good)

While collecting data manually, JMS would collect roughly 30-40 forms in 3 hours, with digital data collection they’ve managed to double that count to 80-100 forms in 2 hours. Per form, they would earlier spend Rs. 3, they now save that money entirely. Additionally, JMS saves approx. Rs. 50,000/year by getting the trained youth volunteers to collect data instead of having a vendor digitize paper forms for them.

They have also been able to easily visualize the stored data, showcase and disseminate it on social media and other platforms. So far, the trained students have uploaded 1.6K survey forms to ODK, thereby saving Rs. 5000 purely by curtailing paper wastage.

"The tool has been easy to handle with minimum technical on-going guidance. It reduces the cost and our dependence on vendors for data entry."

– Shruti (Programme Coordinator, JMS)

Shruti, along with her Google mentor, trained 60+ nonprofits at the Google-Tech4Good Summit 2019.

"Googlers trained nonprofits on My Maps, Google Earth, Open Data Kit etc. and Tech4good helped us facilitate those connections with Nonprofits to scope out organizations that could benefit the most from an engagement like this, who could then go on to train more NGOs to drive impact at scale?"

– Devaja Shah, Program Manager, Google Earth Outreach

The challenge we face when we bring a diverse set of audiences in contact with ODK are varied, they range from the systemic sectorwide resistance to technology (mostly grassroots), to the more rudimentary issues like presence of scattered, disorganized & discontinuous data in the sector; loss of data to natural calamities; the tedious process of data digitization; questions around legacy data migration & difficulties understanding the ins & outs of a tool, for e.g. syncing ODK forms with Google spreadsheets.

"Over time, we’ve observed a growing affinity for ODK Build amongst people, however, there is some skepticism attached to the usability of ODK Aggregate as it requires a private server & is harder for them to configure."

– Santhosh Lourdraj (Tech Lead, Tech4Good)

Feedback Loop
Our feedback loop is fairly straightforward: our Help Desk functions through Whatsapp, with groups for each cohort, for them to raise concerns & receive help. We rely heavily on videos & screen shots to walk them through the entire process of setup.

Additionally, they also get access to Google mentors & customised hand holding from them.

Reverse Osmosis
What makes the work more meaningful for us, is when we get the opportunity to reach back to software creators with our suggestions and help catalyse changes to a product that enhances its usefulness to a particular audience.

"Talking with our users is something we've always done. It's important because it helps us understand their problems and it is only through that understanding that we can ensure ODK remains useful. Beyond learning about the problems, the conversations we have with organizations like Tech4Good is also inspiring. Sharing the impact of Tech4Good through the showcase inspires even more people and often encourages them to contribute a little bit more. Maybe it’s answering one more support question or being extra detailed in providing beta feedback. Each little bit adds up to a lot more impact.”

– Yaw Anokwa (Co-Founder, ODK)

This rich & open exchange with various stakeholders forms the foundation of all our programmes and helps us keep them relevant & beneficial for all involved.