To conduct an mobile data collection (MDC) survey, some specific equipment is required. The equipment varies slightly depending on whether you work with or without internet connection. In general, for context with internet connection, the equipment needed is a subset of the offline working environment, hence the description found here is for both settings unless marked out as offline only. The detailed tutorials on how to set up the equipment on the phone and computer can be found at the end or on the MDC tools page. 

If your country or field operation plans to conduct several surveys using MDC either in consecutive years, in a number of nutrition surveys throughout the country, or in various types of surveys, it is recommended to buy a full survey set for your operation. To get guidance and support on the implementation of SENS with mobile phone technology, contact: [email protected]

Equipment needed:

  • ODK tools
  • Android mobile phones
  • Wireless router (offline only)
  • Computer (offline needs a dedicated computer as a server)
  • Steady power supply
  • USB battery pack


The software chosen by UNHCR is the free open-source ODK application. ODK stands for Open Data Kit, and is a set of applications for creating questionnaires and surveys that can be downloaded free from the internet.

Before you start a survey, you need to make sure that you have the latest version of ODK Collect recommended by UNHCR on the phones and that you have the right version of ODK Aggregate (server for the offline setting) on your computer or a preset Raspberry Pi server. For context with internet connection, the webpage based Kobo Toolbox can be used instead of ODK Aggregate to deploy questionnaires and export data. You will always find information concerning current versions in the latest updates. 


You will need enough smartphones for each survey team to have one or two phones, as well as a few backups. All phones must be running on Android platform in order to be compatible with the ODK Collect application. For ease of use, smartphones with a large touchscreen are preferable. The smartphones may be borrowed from UNHCR HQ, RB-EHAGL, or country operations could have their own set of phones. It’s highly recommended to distribute and collect survey phones before and after the survey every day and keep a log of inventory.

Minimal Requirements:

  • Android Version 2.3 (recent phones are generally platform 4 or higher)
  • Screen size of 4 inches is recommended

Required Applications:

WIRELESS ROUTER (offline only)

The wireless router is required to create a local wireless network and allow the phones to communicate with the server (computer or Raspberry Pi). At the end of each day, data is sent from the phones to the server using the local wireless network.

Minimal Requirements:

  • DHCP reservation capacity
  • Wireless

COMPUTER (dedicated survey computer is offline only)

We strongly recommend having a dedicated survey computer or use Raspberry Pi as the server if working offline. This computer will be set up specifically for the survey, either by UNHCR HQ or by your in-country IT team with remote support from HQ. Note that using the computer for other purposes (e.g. internet) may cause errors in the quick links and settings prepared on the computer specifically for the survey, and may cause problems for the survey coordinator. Raspberry Pi is a pre-set portable board computer which can be connected to any computer and work as the survey server, so that you don’t have to dedicate a computer specifically for the survey, i.e. you can still use this computer for other purposes (such as surf internet or check email). You can request this device from UNHCR HQ. Please refer to MDC Tool 16 for detail. When the internet connection is available, a regular computer that can connect to internet is required (this computer can be used for other purposes, and no need for pre-setting). 

Minimal Requirements:

  • 1G RAM
  • Installed with Windows 7 (alternatively XP works as well)

Software Required:


Access to a good electrical supply is essential for the router and computer and for over-night charging capacities of the phones. Where electrical supply is unstable with unexpected power-cuts or planned power savings, alternative charging options must be considered before the survey.


Even though they cannot replace steady electrical power, battery packs are a useful secondary source of energy for the phones. We recommend having at least 2 for a survey where the phones are daily charged. This way, if a phone lacks battery during the survey, the enumerator can charge it while continuing the survey.


ricon_download    Downloads

MDC Tool 1 – Tutorial – Launching and Using the Server                            fticon_msword fticon_pdf

MDC Tool 2 – Tutorial – Exporting Data for Analysis                                     fticon_msword fticon_pdf

MDC Tool 3 – IT Tutorial – Installing a New Server                                         fticon_msword fticon_pdf

MDC Tool 9 – To Print – Phone Daily Inventory                                                 fticon_pdf

MDC Tool 12 – Tutorial – How to set up the phone for SENS surveys   fticon_msword  

MDC Tool 13 – Tutorial – Connecting Mobile Device to Raspberry Pi Aggregate Server             fticon_msword  

To top