Over the last few years, we have been developing our data system so that we can use it to accurately measure the impact of our projects. This year, we are excited to implement our new (and very improved) tablet-based data collection method. 

Every month, our Nomakhayas conduct home visits for over 700 community members, and Bulungula Health Point sees more than 500 patients. Each of these visits can generate up to 30 data points for a single patient.

Prior, our Nomakhayas and nurse would record all this data on paper, which was then manually captured by our data team. It would take two full-time data capturers two weeks to capture just one month of our Health Programme data. 

The paper-based method was not only time-consuming, but it was prone to error. Sometimes, the information written down was hard to read or incorrectly spelt. When the data team entered this information into the computer, they could make mistakes too. It would then take even more time to identify and correct these errors. 

Needless to say, we were ready for a more streamlined process. 

At the end of last year, we began our tablet-based project by conducting a comprehensive village-wide census. This census allowed us to create a master list of all our beneficiaries. We trained our Nomakhayas to use tablets to collect the names, ID numbers, and geographical locations of our community members.

Village-census training with Nomakhayas, October 2022.
Map of our beneficiaries’ households from village census.

Now, instead of having to write every name, Nomakhayas can simply select their patient from the master list. To further enhance efficiency, we use digital consultation forms that are automatically uploaded to tablets. Once the form is filled out, it uploads directly to our data system. This means, no more manual capture!

Moreover, the digital format allows us to quickly create and modify forms as needed. For instance, in the event of an outbreak, we can promptly develop a new form for our Nomakhayas to gather vital information, facilitating a rapid assessment of affected areas.

One significant advantage of our tablet-based system is its offline functionality. Despite operating in an area with unreliable network coverage, our Nomakhayas can access and complete forms offline. The completed forms are saved on the devices and automatically synchronized once network connectivity is restored. This ensures real-time data updates.

Nomakhaya filling out a health consultation form on tablet during a routine home visit, May 2023.

The implementation of tablets has also freed up valuable time for our data capturers. With less time spent on manual data entry, they can focus on double-checking the accuracy of the data and flagging any potential issues.

While our Health Programme generates the most data among all our projects, using a master list allows us to deeply assess the impact of all our projects and understand how they intersect. We will be able to explore compelling questions, such as the correlation between early childhood development centre (ECDC) attendance and literacy level later in life, the influence of access to essential farming inputs on agricultural entrepreneurship, or the impact of nearby healthcare on fulfilling a productive career.

Data holds immense potential for driving positive change and improving lives. The introduction of our tablet-based data collection method empowers us to make data-driven decisions to create lasting transformation in our community.

Nomakhaya recording consultation data using the survey tool, KoboCollect.