Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


I would like to recruit somebody to use MDC, how should I proceed?

Please contact the HQ IM advisor for more information.

Do I need training to do MDC?

MDC requires more training than using a basic paper data collection. Enumerators should learn how to use the smartphone properly (GPS, battery follow-up...) and how to use the MDC app itself (navigation, data entry, sending form, etc.).

On top of the basic data collection training, survey managers should learn how to create surveys (online survey builder or XLS forms) and analyze data. Depending on the position training from a few hours to a 6 day training (for a fully-fledged training to be autonomous on all components of mobile data collection from conception to analysis) is recommended.

Training material is available on this page.


Is it free to do MDC?

The use of Kobo Toolbox for humanitarian organizations (on the server hosted by OCHA) is free, but you still have to account for the costs of purchasing and maintaining the mobile devices to be used, as well as for the capacity building of teams. Tools that provide increased data security or added features, instead, are usually more commercial, working on a license-based use. 

For more information read the document "Tdh staff MDC Tools recommendations" at this page.

Data protection

Where is my data stored?

If you use the Kobo version for humanitarian organizations, which is the Tdh recommendation, your data is stored in a server belonging to OCHA hosted by BlackMesh, in the United States. For more info see this page.

Is there any risk to lose my data? Is the cloud really safe?

We have never heard of a case of loss of data using Kobo Toolbox without any human manipulation error. 

However, should you unintentionally delete your project containing the data on Kobo Toolbox, you should know that the data will not be retrievable.

Can I use MDC in a conflict zone?

A risk assessment should be done in order to define whether MDC is adequate. Mitigation measures can be taken in order to minimize the risk of using MDC in such context such as data encryption or other more advanced protective measures. 

For more information read the document "Tdh staff MDC Tools recommendations" at this page  as well as the tutorial "2.08. How to protect your mobile device - Level 2 (very sensitive contexts)" at this page.

Can I use Kobo for the collection of sensitive data? If yes, how?

It is preferable to not use Kobo to collect sensitive data, because the encryption features is not stable. Tdh at the actual status recommends the implementation of other solutions to collect sensitive data with mobile devices, such as SurveyCTO, CommCare (more for health related data and health case management) or CPIMS+ (for child protection case management). For more information read the document "Tdh staff MDC Tools recommendations" at this page.

Is it safe to go to the field with a mobile phone?

Globally yes, it is safe provided that basic security rules are followed. Smartphones (of various quality) are nowadays a common object to have, even in very difficult contexts, but one must always be careful with his/her mobile during work (as with any other expensive belonging) as they can correspond to an object of envy. They can also be seen as a military GPS-type device is certain conflict zones (Syrian context for example). It is important to remain discreet with the material, to understand in which security context the survey is taking place, to be able to explain very clearly what is the reason of your presence (e.g. to authorities, soldiers, local representative). 

Note that in some contexts, electronic devices can be considered a bit intimidating for interviewees. You might want to check depending on the context whether tablets or smartphones are the most acceptable (you can also refer to this blog post to explore the subject further)

Most of the potential issues must be discussed with your security advisor, management, your team and local staff before starting the survey.

Data quality

What are the risks of misusing MDC?

Risks of misusing MDC is mostly related to surveys conceived badly. There are two main categories of risks in MDC: 

  • data quality 
  • loss of time

 For further information, please consult the document "Risk of Misusing MDC" available at this page.


Is it possible to use old Nokia phones (not smartphones) to collect data?

Unfortunately not for standard Mobile Data Collection (you have to have an Android device to be able to use ODK Collect). 

Note that other types of tools can be used with "non-smart" devices (through SMS).

Which devices should I buy?

Recommended features and settings as well as a comparison of devices is available under this page.

Frequent errors

Why is Kobo Analyser not working for my collected data?

If you download the data in Kobo Analyser format and it does not work, it is either because:

  • you have to adapt your Kobo Analyser tool with a few tweaks
  • You have to follow a specific codification in XLS form in order to be able to fully use Kobo Analyser, in particular concerning variable names

Please consult the "Encoder guide for Kobo Excel data analyser users" documentation on this page.

Internet access

What internet access do I need? Can I work offline?

Collecting data is performed offline but the synchronization between the mobiles and the server usually requires an Internet connection. The finalized forms are sent through the WiFi connection but it can also use 3G network. 

It is possible to work 100% offline by installing the server locally but this entails:

  • IT-related technical skills that are a bit more advanced
  • that the phones be brought back to a common place for the data synchronisation.

Life cycle

What does a deployment of a form correspond to?

The deployment of a form is the action to make available a form newly created or modified for data entry. It is then possible to download the form as "blank form" on external devices to start collecting data. If you cannot see your form from the mobile and that you are sure you have connected to the account, it is probably because it is still in "draft" mode and that you still therefore need to deploy it. Check out the "Deploy your survey" document at this page.


I have a question related to Kobo or XLS form, who should I ask?

This depends on the situation and whether you have access to a technical support team or not. 

If you are a Terre des hommes delegation or from Terre des hommes HQ you can check out the links below (and all the documents on this website) and/or send an email to: Find out more on the support in the "Available MDC technical support for Tdh staff" document available here

Know that the response to many questions can be found online. Here are a few links where it is possible to find a lot of information: 


What is the difference between Kobo Toolbox, Kobo Collect, and ODK Collect?

Kobo Toolbox is the default platform (or server) used to do mobile data collection (at least in Terre des hommes, but in many other humanitarian organisations also). 

Kobo Collect and ODK Collect are two very similar mobile applications (that come from the same "code") that can both connect to Kobo Toolbox. The Terre des hommes recommendation today is to use ODK Collect for data collection because it generally offers extra features and is more up-to-date.

Which  tool should I use for standard MDC (excluding case management)?

The Terre des hommes recommendation is described in the "Tdh staff MDC Tools recommendations" document available here. A summary is:

  • Kobo Toolbox and ODK Collect for all basic mobile data collection 
  • SurveyCTO for all data collections that are designed to include Personal Identifiable Information(PIIs) and sensitive information or do basic Case Management 

What should I do if I need to do case management?

Standard MDC tools like Kobo do not permit case management. 

The recommendation for Tdh staff needing to do Case Management are the following:

  •  for Child Protection case management: to use CPIMS+ (but note that this is a heavy tool to set up and should not be taken lightly)-contact the CP advisor to know more. 
  • for mobile health care workers data collection and health Case Management: to use CommCare (see:
  • For more standard Case Management: to use SurveyCTO 

For more information read the document "Tdh staff MDC Tools recommendations" at this page and contact your IM advisor.

Is it possible to receive alerts or reminders while using MDC?

It is not possible to receive alerts and reminders through standard MDC tools such as Kobo. More advanced paying tools sometimes make this possible.

Use case

Is it possible to monitor the attendance of a child friendly space (CFS) or a given water point using MDC?

Kobo Toolbox is not the best tool to manage an attendance list, nor is its use recommended when personal data of children is involved (due to its sensitivity). For attendance of a water point, it may be used but it is not recommended if you want to follow the water point over time.

What are advantages and disadvantages when using MDC?

Advantages are: 

  • better data quality, 
  • fastest data entry, 
  • data ready for analysis as soon as synchronized, 
  • cheaper system if used on regular basis, 
  • multi-options (images, GPS, languages, etc.), 
  • lighter material to carry on the field. 

Disadvantages are: 

  • requires more training, 
  • longer survey preparation, 
  • survey less visual than paper, 
  • fragile technology and costly at first, 
  • depends on electricity, 
  • may be a security issue if not handled properly, 
  • not adapted for qualitative surveys, 
  • may be intimidating for interviewees,
  • unappropriate in certain contexts. 

You can also refer to: for more information.