Digital data gathering (or DDG) is a process of collecting data electronically through the use of existing technology such as personal digital assistants (PDAs or smart phones), tablets and net-books for data collection. In other words, it is the use of digital technology for collecting data or information from respondents.

Importance of using digital data gathering

The main reasons why organizations are resorting to digital data collection are as below:

1. Data Quality

Perhaps the most important reason why organizations should consider DDG is for data quality purposes. Digital data collection ensures strict data collection measures are enforced, an important feature to control data quality. Several restrictions can be enforced including:

a. Skip patterns

Several times in a survey, a researcher has questions with skip patterns. For example, for a WASH questionnaire, you may only want to ask a respondent if their toilet is internally lockable, if their response to a previous question on whether they have a toilet is “yes”. These types of skip patterns can only be enforced on digital surveys, with a conditional question only appearing based on the response to a previous question. An example of a skip pattern question is as below

Do you own Land? [ ] Yes / [ ] No

If Yes, to question above, how many acres [Number Entry_____]

For paper based questionnaires, proper recording of such skip pattern kinds of questions are entirely reliant on the enumerator skills, knowledge of the questionnaire and keenness, leaving plenty of room for error.

b. Entry limits

This kind of restriction is usually vital especially for numeric types of questions. For digital surveys, it is possible to restrict entries, by having minimum and maximum values. For example, when taking the ages of children in a household survey, say for Children between 0 and 5 months, one can restrict age entry to a maximum of 5. Any entry above 5 is therefore rejected.

c. Type questions (e.g. Numeric vs Text)

Questions are of different types. There are numeric entries, alpha-numeric entries, and date entries, among other types. Digital data gathering ensures that entries are limited to their type, so you don’t have a text response for a numeric question, for example. The researcher is also able to control such things as date formats, such as DD/MM/YYYY or MM/DD/YYYY or DD/MM/YY, depending on requirements or preferences