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Tools and tips for mobile data collection in nutrition surveys from West and Central Africa

Author: Barbara Baille, Damien Pereyra Ngono, Noël Marie Zagré
Year: 2020
Resource type: Field tool

An Operational Guideline from Practical Experiences in West and Central Africa

Introduction and rationale

Every year, 8 to 15 countries in the West and Central Africa region1 conduct nutritional surveys using the SMART methodology2. Since 2006, the year in which this methodology was generalized in the region, nearly 3003 SMART surveys were carried out in this region.

These surveys are mainly conducted on a large scale (national) and on a regular basis (annual for 6 countries). The quality of surveys, the use of data and the ownership of the methodology by governments have positively evolved steadily over the years, with less reliance on international consultants for survey coordination4. Today, the surveys are conducted under the coordination of government bodies empowered to manage nutrition and statistics issues at national level and/or national statistics institutes, with financial and technical support from international technical and financial partners, including UNICEF.

The SMART methodology was developed in the early 2000s, with the technologies available at the time: easy-to-use software (ENA for SMART5), running on a computer, to enter, analyze and check the quality of the data collected every day through paper questionnaires. Since anthropometric measurements errors in young children are frequent and their consequences on estimates of nutritional prevalence are significant, the ENA software for SMART includes a sophisticated verification system allowing rapid identification of measurement errors entered, in order to be corrected as soon as possible. The following day by the enumerators (during a new visit with the children concerned).

In recent years, survey data collection technology witnessed huge leaps forward with the introduction of hand-held tablets as an alternative to paper questionnaires. The use of tablets allows for faster questionnaire completion, reduces the risk of errors and prevents tedious and timeconsuming step of entering paper questionnaires on computer. However, ENA software for SMART is not compatible with these tablets.

While some countries have therefore continued to use paper questionnaires for SMART data collection, others have decided to adapt the SMART methodology on tablets as much as possible. These initiatives were a great success, but some challenges were noted.

Currently, there is a need for harmonizing methods used and a need for sharing good practices and lessons learned in the region. This will improve the SMART data collection system and therefore the quality of the data itself. 

Main objective and target user

Based on experiences reported in some West and Central Africa countries, this report aims to describe the different options available for the use of the digital tool in nutritional surveys with the collection of anthropometric measurements.

This document targets national actors involved in survey coordination and eager to implement for the first time the mobile data collection system for SMART or other nutritional surveys. But also those who already use mobile data collection systems in their nutritional surveys and who would like to improve the already existing system.  



1 The target geographic area is covered by the UNICEF's West and Central Africa Regional Office (24 countries).


3 298 nutritional surveys, according to the UNICEF WCARO database (December 2019)

4 In 2019, only xx out of xx countries recruited an international consultant as part of their SMART surveys, while all of the countries used to do so when the methodology was introduced.

5 ENA for SMART January 2020 release downloadable HERE



Mobile-Data-Collection_UNICEF-WCARO_June-2020-Final.pdf (PDF, 538kb)

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Barbara Baille, Damien Pereyra Ngono, Noël Marie Zagré (2020). Tools and tips for mobile data collection in nutrition surveys from West and Central Africa.



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