We’re excited to share the results of our first project: a Survey Toolkit assembled by Devergy, a solar PV micro-grid developer in Tanzania. This toolkit helps energy access organizations collect, manage, and visualize survey data. The best part? It’s free, highly configurable, and easy to use.
About this project
Energy access organizations work in opaque market environments. There is a lack of the kind of data that organizations and their partners would normally like to see — i.e. a description of the physical environment, customer behaviors, existing economic activities, and so on — in order to justify an investment. What this means is that energy access organizations rely on themselves to create a detailed picture of the environment that they will be operating in, which can then be communicated to partners and funders; some of whom may be located around the world.
While market intelligence is critical for organizations at the earliest stage of an opportunity, so is a process of ongoing data management that can grow with the organization. Without a deep understanding of their target market, an organization would be designing their offering in the dark; and unless a company continuously collects data from its customers and operations, it will likely miss opportunities to optimize activities or create new value.
While well-funded companies might contract 3rd party service providers to create both market and business intelligence on their behalf, early stage teams usually can’t afford to. It’s common for young organizations to build internal capacity for surveying the communities that they will be serving.
Actionable market and business intelligence often requires geo-tagging structures and features, taking photos and videos of landmarks or other features of a market, recording voices in a community, and of course, surveying potential customers. A lot of information is collected, and often in a variety of formats.
New organizations can spend a lot of time figuring out how to arrange all of this. There is an initial question of what data platform to use, and later questions of: how to train staff on a given platform; how to integrate the platform into everyday operations and systems, and; how to ensure that the platform is kept up to date. We’ve noticed teams try out a tool or method for a few weeks or months before running into some kind of snag: pencil and paper surveys are hard to scale; a handful of apps are just short of perfect, and; custom or enterprise-grade platforms can be costly.
Introducing the results of our first project: Devergy’s Survey Toolkit
We’re excited to present the results of our first project, a Survey Toolkit developed by Devergy. Devergy is a social enterprise that has installed and operated solar PV micro-grids in Tanzania since 2012, and over the years, has experimented with several approaches for collecting and managing data. About a year ago, the team landed on the combination of tools described in this toolkit to survey its customers and communities (i.e. to support a market intelligence function), as well as to keep tabs on operations (i.e. to support a “BizOps” or business intelligence function).
The toolkit combines three off-the-shelf applications — EpiCollect 5, Google Sheets, and Google My Maps — and works like this:
1. Users use EpiCollect 5 to create a custom survey form or data entry template;
2. Users use the EpiCollect 5 mobile app to collect geo-tagged survey data, with options for collecting data in text, photo, video, or audio formats;
3. Users enter a script into Google Sheets to allow data to be sent from EpiCollect 5 to Google Sheets, where it can be cleaned and analyzed;
4. Users use the data in Google Sheets to create a custom Map (i.e. on Google My Maps) which presents insights in a visual format.
We like this toolkit because it’s free, highly configurable, and easy to use. We love that it’s been field-proven for a year or more, and we’d recommend this as a great option for teams that are just getting started with surveying, or otherwise finding issue with their existing surveying platform.
Test out the toolkit and let us know what you think.
If you’re looking for a new way to collect and manage survey data, head over to the Survey Toolkit project page. You’ll find instructional videos, a “how-to” guide providing step-by-step instructions, and the script needed to integrate EpiCollect 5 with Google Sheets.
If you do use the tool, we’d love to hear your feedback. Send any questions, comments, or suggestions for improvements our way.
And of course, if your organization could use funding to create and share a similar piece of sector-building content, don’t be shy — apply.
Finally, big up to the Devergy team for sharing this toolkit and for collaborating with us on our first project as EnAccess. We learned a lot, had a blast, and are looking forward to working together in the future.