Should I use KoboToolbox or ActivityInfo
KoboToolbox, the open source tool for primary mobile data collection, is an initiative that has transformed data collection in the humanitarian sector and is embraced by a vibrant community of thousands of users. Founded in 2005, it soon became a project supported by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and a tool of choice for surveys and research in challenging environments replacing paper based data collection methods. In 2013, KoboToolbox partnered with IRC and UNOCHA and as a result a free KoboToolbox server, also called the Humanitarian Server was made available to organizations worldwide. In 2019, KoboToolbox, was established as an independent nonprofit organization, Kobo. As of 1 September 2023, Kobo has assumed full responsibility for the KoboToolbox server, previously owned by UN OCHA.
At ActivityInfo, we are often asked about the difference between the ActivityInfo platform and mobile app and the KoboToolbox mobile application. Following the pricing updates in KoboToolbox and as the ActivityInfo platform follows a different approach to data collection, we created a guide to help you understand in which cases each tool is a better fit.
One-off surveys versus longitudinal data collection or beneficiary management
KoboToolbox is designed for, and great for, one-off surveys, particularly when the identity of the interviewees is not relevant to the data. For example, KoboToolbox is great when you are working on:
- Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices Surveys (KAP)
- Population health surveys
- Research surveys
While you can certainly undertake these kinds of surveys with ActivityInfo and our offline-capable mobile app, ActivityInfo is really designed to support a full information management system to support ongoing activities and processes.
Activityinfo is a complete database system, while KoboToolbox and other ODK-based tools are designed for data collection.
For example, ActivityInfo is great when you are working with:
- Continuous facility monitoring
- Longitudinal studies
- Monitoring and Evaluation systems
- Case Management systems
- Partner reporting
In any situation where you need to make repeated measurements of a person, a facility, or another entity, and relate those measurements to other, changing aspects of your programme, then ActivityInfo’s relational database model provides a better solution.
As a database, rather than just a collection tool, ActivityInfo is also designed to put information into the hands of fieldworkers with two-synchronization.
ActivityInfo will securely synchronize a replica of your database to each offline database, taking into account each user’s granular permissions. This way health workers can review notes from previous checkups, even if they were collected by someone else.
ActivityInfo will also use the offline replica to provide immediate feedback if duplicate data is collected and to ensure that new data is correctly linked in your database.
ActivityInfo automatically synchronizes changes to the form design, and any referenced data as soon as a user regains an internet connection. That way, once a household is registered, another fieldworker can quickly start logging services against that household without having to manually download a new version of the form.
Access control and collaboration
When conducting a one-off survey, you don’t necessarily want fieldworkers to be able to make changes after the survey is complete. However, for an information management system, this is essential. ActivityInfo allows you to closely control who is allowed to view what data, and when and what changes they can make.
This allows you to collaborate on a dataset with partners or with programme staff. Then, ActivityInfo’s detailed audit log ensures that all changes are traceable and can be reverted if needed.
KoboToolbox remains a great tool for large scale one off data collection, whereas ActivityInfo is designed to serve a long-term role as an information management system. If you need to perform data collection for a brief period, then KoboToolbox is probably a better choice. If you are looking to implement a complete management information system, you might want to consider ActivityInfo instead.
If you have started with KoboToolbox but have grown beyond a single one-off survey, we offer a number of tools to help you migrate from KoboToolbox to ActivityInfo. You can import XLSforms, or use our new beta migrator. Contact us to get early access to the automatic migrator.