DIGITAL VS. PAPER

Here at SurveyCTO, we want you to be able to collect high quality data as fast and cost effectively as possible.

If you are still evaluating the benefits of digital data collection over paper-based, take a look at these comparison tables of their methods, processes, and costs that we have adapted from Oxfam GB’s Effectiveness Review.

DATA COLLECTION METHODS: CAPI vs. PAPI

Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) and Paper and Pencil Interviewing (PAPI) are two different methods of conducting surveys and collecting data.

PAPI is the traditional method, in which an enumerator fills in a paper form or questionnaire. With CAPI, the enumerator uses a tablet, smartphone, or laptop computer to move through the interview and record responses.

COMPARING PROCESSES

DIGITAL SURVEYS

PAPER SURVEYS

Questionnaire design

Coding digital questionnaire

Piloting

Piloting and testing

Training

Digital and paper

Paper only

Survey data collection

Monitor data quality

Community feedback summary statistics

Data entry required

Data analysis

Adapted from Oxfam’s Effectiveness Review of SurveyCTO.

COMPARING METHODS

DIGITAL SURVEYS

PAPER SURVEYS

TEMPLATE DESIGN

A data-collection template needs to be designed before data collection can begin. This template will be loaded onto the devices data collectors use in the field, and the data will be recorded directly from the interview onto the device.

Physical survey forms must be designed before data collection can begin; a data-entry template needs to be designed before data from the paper surveys can be entered into a computer. The template will define each variable or question, specify what entries are valid, and indicate which fields should be skipped under which circumstances. This is often done after the survey has already launched.

QUESTION TYPES

Forms can allow multiple-choice and write-in responses; they can also capture the current GPS location, take photos, record audio or video, perform calculations, capture signatures, allow respondents to draw onto photos, and more.

Forms can allow both multiple-choice and write-in responses. They can also allow spaces for the respondent to sign or draw directly onto the form.

HARDWARE

Smartphones, tablets, laptops, or netbooks will be needed for each of the data collectors to perform interviews and record responses. Hardware is one of the key costs in digital data collection.

Computers will be needed for data entry. If the project will do in-field data entry, laptops or netbooks will be needed.

SOFTWARE

Different software options are available. Pricing, programming difficulty, support, and flexibility vary widely.

Data-entry software will be needed. Some options are available at no cost (e.g., CSPro), while others are not (e.g., Microsoft Access).

PRINTING

No printing is required for a CAPI survey.

Paper-based survey forms must be printed. And, if they are printed in bulk and then revisions are later required (a common situation), stickers or replacement pages may need to be printed and then inserted into existing forms. Printing is one of the key costs in paper data collection.

ENUMERATOR TRAINING

Since skip patterns and field validation are handled by the data-collection device, enumerators can be trained more quickly. However, those not used to using smartphone or tablet technology may need extra time to become comfortable using the devices.

Complex or numerous skip patterns can be difficult for enumerators to master, and it may take much practice for enumerators to reliably enter valid responses into all fields. Therefore, the necessary training period could be lengthy.

TRANSPORTATION AND STORAGE

Surveys are typically “transported” via USB connection, local wi-fi network, or the Internet, then “stored” on a server or local hard drive. Proper precautions must be taken (generally using data encryption) to ensure that the data is secure both in transit and, to the greatest extent possible, at rest.

A secure system must be designed to bring the surveys from the field to the office, and to store the surveys in the office. Once data is entered into the computer, it should be stored securely (generally using data encryption).

DATA ENTRY

The data is instantly digitized as it is entered into the tablet.

Data must be entered into the programmed template by trained data-entry operators. For each form or questionnaire, typically two entries are completed, they are compared, and any differences between the two are corrected. Data can be entered in the field if laptops or other mobile hardware are available and the data-entry operators are able to travel. The advantage of in-field entry is that the data is available faster for scrutiny, allowing errors to be caught while the team is still in the field. Data entry is one of the key costs in paper data collection.

QUALITY CONTROL

The flow of questions is automated, so the enumerator does not need to decide which question comes next; it is calculated by the phone or tablet. Many other quality control measures are possible with CAPI, such as logical checks, pre-filling information, setting constraints on answer ranges, and invisibly recording audio for later review. The data is also available right away in a digitized format to look for any other problems.

Typically the survey team will include “scrutinizers”, whose job it is to look carefully at the completed questionnaires and catch enumerator errors. The questionnaire can then be sent back to the field for correction.

DATA CLEANING

The data cleaning process can begin after the first day of surveying. At this time the enumerators are still able to return to any household if they need to make a correction.

Once the data entry is complete, the cleaning process can begin.

TIME TO DATA

In the typical set-up where field teams securely upload data to a server on a nightly basis, data is available by the second day of data collection.

Data typically becomes available only after all of it has been entered and cleaned. This can be weeks or months after the actual data collection.

COMPARING COSTS

DIGITAL SURVEYS

PAPER SURVEYS

DIFFERENCE

SOFTWARE

$220*

$0

+ $220

PRINTING

$60

(20% budgeted for backup)

$300

$240

(10% budgeted for backup)

DATA ENTRY

$210

(10% budgeted for backup)

$2,100

(4 data-entry clerks & 1 supervisor for 15 days)

– $1,890

(10% budgeted for backup)

SUBTOTAL

Excluding hardware

$490

$2400

– $1,910

HARDWARE

$1,000

(based on 10 devices at $100/device)

$0

+ $1,000

TOTAL

Including hardware

$1,490

$2,400

– $910

* Software cost updated to reflect current SurveyCTO pricing without any discounts.
Adapted from Oxfam’s Effectiveness Review of SurveyCTO. We changed the currency to U.S. dollars, updated the software cost, and revised the projected hardware cost to $100/unit (versus £300 in the original table).

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