3 Alternatives to Paper Data Collection

In an increasingly digital landscape, there are many alternatives to paper data collection. If you are researching how best to replace this antiquated and time consuming process in your organization, it can be difficult to determine which will best fit your needs. From functionality to ease of use, and of course budget, the replacement you choose must be a good fit for you.

To help find the right alternative to paper data collection in your organization, here are three commonly used options:

1 – Online Questionnaires instead of Paper Data Collection

Online survey tools have been around for several decades, and have advanced with new tools and features far beyond their humble beginnings in recent years.

Because most of the developed world is online and most people have an email address, it is possible to gather information in that context on a near-global scale with a simple email linking to a survey. And online survey tools are often low-cost and easy to use. But there are limitations to a pure online survey: if it’s not mobile-friendly, it’s not accessible for those who only get online via a mobile phone (a sizable chunk of the population in most countries). Customization for more robust applications is not always an option either.

So, while a good replacement for simple paper surveys, online surveys and questionnaires have their limits.

2 – Mobile Data Collection via Smartphone Apps

Mobile data collection via a smart phone app like Magpi is often the most flexible replacement for paper data collection in a number of ways. It allows the operator to collect quantitative data in the field with a customized survey form. And online form design systems like Magpi make the creation and management of these forms easy for anyone at all, for everything from health data, to conservation information, to worksite inspection checklists – while also providing various ways to analyze and process the data at a later point (e.g. with the Magpi-Zapier integration tools).

Using mobile data collection apps in the field is simple, as well. Connectivity is not required, meaning that rural or emergency settings (where the network may be missing or temporarily down) are not a problem. This is important, because technology and connectivity are not consistent from country to country, or even in different corners of the same country.

3 – Mobile Data Collection via SMS on Any Phone

Since SMS predates smartphones, you’d think that mobile data collection via SMS would have come before mobile data collection on smartphones apps, but that’s generally not the case. Until recently, SMS was largely ignored for the purpose of surveys and polling and other data collection.

Now, however, tools like Magpi’s iSMS (interactive SMS) allow simple or complex data collection activities to be done using the most basic of phones. That’s because even though you might be using a “dumb” phone the data processing is shifted from a smartphone app to the Magpi server (which has plenty of smarts). Logical skip patterns, range checks, and other quality tools can all be done as easily as with the smartphone apps.

Because of it’s mobility and flexibility, Magpi is a useful tool for a variety of field and mobile workers in countries around the globe -and an ideal replacement for old school paper data collection in many settings.

To learn more about how mobile solutions offer an important upgrade over paper data collection methods, download our eBook, Paper, Paper, Everywhere.

Taking the Paper Out of Paperwork

Anywhere paper-based data collection forms are needed - from field research to construction sites to field inspections of equipment - Magpi takes the paper (and a lot of the work) out of paperwork.

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