A year of ActivityInfo improvements with ACDI/VOCA

In the past couple of months we released a series of improvements and new functionalities in ActivityInfo. The majority of these improvements aiming to improve the user experience in the platform took place thanks to the support of ACDI/VOCA who collaborated closely with the ActivityInfo team and financed a series of updates.

Over the last fifteen years, 93% of ActivityInfo’s development has been financed by recurring annual subscription fees. This keeps the software sustainable, as the costs of development are spread out across a user base that includes the United Nations, governments, and thousands of NGOs across the world. We do our best to prioritize the improvements that will have the most impact across our user base and serve the long-term interests of the project.

In a few cases, however, we’ve had the opportunity to put together a project with a customer to address their key priorities in a way that we’re confident will also serve the interests of our broader user base. These projects bring additional resources that allow us to expand our engineering team earlier than our organic growth would otherwise allow, and to get access to in-depth insights from users during the design process. Our work with ACDI/VOCA over the last year has been a great example of such a partnership.

Take a look at this article for a complete overview of the improvements.


ACDI/VOCA, a nonprofit international development organization based in Washington, D.C that offers technical and management assistance in agribusiness, financial services, enterprise development, community development and food security-promoting broad-based economic growth.

In 2020, the organization embarked on an ambitious project to replace a constellation of tools for M&E with ActivityInfo. Following a successful pilot, ACDI/VOCA continues to expand their use of ActivityInfo to 3,000 users in projects across multiple countries, managing the details of hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries. You can read more about the M&E objectives and the information management approach the organization follows as well as the whole journey of adopting ActivityInfo in our Case Study. You can also hear from the ACDI/VOCA team in our recorded webinar, “Making Information Management and M&E work at global level”.

Scaling to larger datasets

In the end of 2023, we completed a switch to new server architecture with the objective to be able to support larger datasets. The record limit of the platform has now been expanded from 200,000 to 1,000,000 records per form.

Form design and data entry improvements

Work with reference data more efficiently

One of the key strengths of ActivityInfo as an information management system is that it is based on the relational database model. This means that it is possible to link datasets to each other to reflect necessary relationships between the data collected and stored in the system. To enhance this functionality we added support for:

  • Referential integrity: Guide or prevent users from deleting records which are referenced in another form.
  • In place reference record creation: With the correct permissions, you can now add records to a reference form directly from the main data entry form.
  • Reverse reference fields: Display a quick preview of associated records for a specific referenced record in Table View.

Read more about these features.

Data quality

The ActivityInfo form builder allows you to build flexible forms that reflect the data collection needs of your projects or your organization as a whole. In addition to existing features for data quality, we developed:

  • Default values for fields: Create pre-populated fields in your data entry forms. Define explicit values or generate values using formulas.
  • ‘Read only’ property: Ensure data entry users cannot edit a field. Combine it with a default field value for more advanced control over the data.

Read more about these features.

  • NOW() function for timestamps: Use TEXT(NOW()) as a formula in a Default field value for a Read only Text field to create timestamps for the entry of individual records.
  • ‘Unique’ property: Create additional constraints for the values that can be added to a field. Using this property, you can also create a record key using a Calculated field with a CONCAT formula. This allows you to use the functionality of Key Fields without exposing the fields in the reference selection window.
  • Subsections: Add more structure to your forms by creating subsections. You can select from 3 indentation levels and create groups of questions under a common topic.
  • Relevance rules for sections and subsections: Apply relevance rules to sections and subsections, allowing you to control relevance for all fields grouped within a section.
  • Relevance and Validation rules for subforms: Apply relevance and validation rules to subforms for more control in data entry. Detect irrelevant records quickly in the Table View of the form.

Working faster

ActivityInfo allows you to start designing databases quickly so as to start using the platform as soon as required. We developed more functionalities to help you work even faster:

  • Form field duplication: Duplicate a field.
  • Form data duplication: Duplicate a form and its contents.
  • Audit log hyperlinking: Navigate to a form or a record directly through the Audit log.
  • Importer - Updating records via Serial Number Key: When importing data, it is now possible to update records using their Serial Number.

Advanced data analysis and reporting

In addition to centralizing data collection and data management, ActivityInfo aims to make it easier for professionals to centralize data analysis and reporting too. By performing advanced calculations in the same platform where the data is collected and managed you can enhance data governance. You can get useful insights from your primary data and showcase how every indicator has been calculated, all in the same place. Instead of keeping indicator definitions trapped in files, you can make them easily accessible to all relevant stakeholders and collaborate faster and in a more transparent way.

We developed new functionalities for advanced analysis including more functions, calculated measures and calculated tables:

  • Calculated measures: Use Calculated measures to combine data from more than one form in a single measure, use different types of aggregations together in the same measure, or aggregate data several times at different levels.
  • Calculated tables: Transform and combine your data into more useful structures for more types of analysis. Group records together to create new, useful categories, filter a table to include only the relevant subset of records or combine multiple tables into a single table.
  • New functions: Choose from a large variety of new functions to work with your data including but not limited to SUMX(), MINX(), MAXX(), COUNTDISTINCTX(), FIRSTX(), LASTX(), PIVOTLONGER(), UNION(), ADDCOLUMNS(), SELECTCOLUMNS() and many more.

Read more about these features.

R package improvements

We have also undertaken a series of major improvements to ActivityInfo's R package. We’ve fully aligned the package with the popular “tidyverse” approach to data science, making it easier to work with data from in ActivityInfo using dplyr and related packages. The ActivityInfo package also includes new functions for:

  • bulk importing data,
  • adding and manipulating forms and,
  • querying large datasets efficiently with filters.

We've also launched a new documentation site for the package, which includes detailed tutorials and how-tos for a variety of use cases.

Make sure to watch and star the ActivityInfo GitHub repository!

Improved user interface for external integrations

ActivityInfo supports connections to external tools such as PowerBI via the Query API. We improved the user interface that allows users to easily generate a URL with exactly the fields and records that they need, making it easier to integrate third-party data visualization and analysis tools.

Looking ahead

We’re grateful for the amazing partnership with ACDI/VOCA that’s made these improvements possible. Working closely with ACDI/VOCA and their partners throughout the development process, we were able to design and deliver features which provided solutions to their most urgent needs. The additional engineers that we were able to hire now have now been able to join our team full time thanks to the growth in ActivityInfo subscriptions over the last year, and are already hard at work on the next steps in our ambitious roadmap.

Interested in accelerating ActivityInfo’s development? Contact us to discuss potential projects, or consider pre-paying your ActivityInfo subscription multiple years in advance, which allows us to invest in improvements earlier.