Staff Blog

Staff Blog

Does technology matter in CommCare projects?

by Melissa Loudon

10 December 2014

This is post #3 in our Under the Data Tree blog series.

Over the last fifteen years, feature phones capable of running third-party apps superseded basic voice-and-text devices. More recently, smartphone penetration has been increasing rapidly in the developing world. In particular, Android devices are now widely available in most countries, and over 10 million new smartphone connections were made every month in Africa during 2013 and 2014 (GSMA, 2014).

This post explores some mobile technology trends across a large number of projects using CommCare.  The CommCare mobile app runs on both feature phones and smartphones. Data can also be collected via SMS or the web. This allows us to track trends and compare usage patterns across different technologies.

Users by device type, Jan 2010 – Sept 2014

(moving the slider zooms the timeline)

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Is it unusual for a user’s activity level to change quickly?

by Rashmi Dayalu, Mengji Chen, Neal Lesh

This is post #2 in our Under the Data Tree blog series.

How concerned should we be if we notice a CommCare user submitting less data than they have been submitting recently? We have the intuition that most CommCare users will submit about the same amount of data from month to month. While there are seasonal effects and other reasons why responsibilities might vary, we hypothesize that most of the time, a user’s responsibilities don’t shift quickly. Many CommCare users need to follow up regularly with their cases; the number of cases they have changes relatively slowly as new ones are registered and others are discharged. Additionally, we expect that an individual user will tend to be consistently high-performing or low-performing over time, both in terms of fulfilling their responsibilities and how well they use CommCare.

Testing our intuition about user consistency is an important part of our effort to understand and improve user behavior. If we know how much data to expect from each user, we can create alerts if they don’t meet those expectations. These alerts can be used to trigger follow-up or other interventions by project supervisors. Having a baseline for user activity will also help us evaluate the effectiveness of such an intervention – if we improve user behavior in one month, can we expect that improvement to carry over to future months?

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How quickly do frontline workers adopt mobile technology?

by Jeremy Wacksman, Mengji Chen, Neal Lesh

This is post #1 in our Under the Data Tree blog series.

How long does it take CommCare users to reach a steady state of use? We expect that it will take the average user some time to get comfortable using CommCare and that most users require a period of time before they start using CommCare with all of their clients. How long this process takes is an important question because it can inform how to introduce mobile technology to frontline workers (FLWs). It can help programs plan their implementation timelines to allow sufficient time for users to get comfortable using their mobile apps before trying to expand further. Furthermore if we know what to expect, program staff can identify individual users who are exhibiting slow uptake of CommCare and can provide extra support and training for such users.

For this investigation, we’ll explore our data during the first year of CommCare usage. We analyzed about 630 users who have used CommCare for at least one year, including only those that submitted data for at least 10 months of their first year. We also randomly selected users from very large projects, so that no single CommCare project accounted for more than 10% of users.

UE Image 1

Figure 1: Median number of cases visited per month of CommCare use

The above graph (Figure 1) shows how many different cases are visited (either registered or followed-up) in each of the first twelve months of usage. Note that this shows the median of all users in their first month, second month, etc., regardless of when they actually started using CommCare. We can see a steady increase in how many cases were visited over the first six months of usage before it levels out.

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Introducing the Under the Data Tree blog series

by Rashmi Dayalu, Mengji Chen, Melissa Loudon, Andrew Marder, Neal Lesh

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 2.11.15 AMDimagi is pleased to launch the Under the Data Tree blog series.

Our objective is to share insights that we glean from analyzing millions of forms that have been submitted to our cloud server from hundreds of projects around the globe.  We believe this data contains a wealth of information about the most effective way to implement CommCare or other mobile technology for frontline workers in resource-poor settings. Each blog will report on an investigation into one particular topic, using CommCare data from a wide range of projects.

The current list of blogs is:

  1. How quickly do frontline workers adopt mobile technology?
  2. Is it unusual for a user’s activity level to change quickly?
  3. Does technology matter in CommCare projects?

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Dimagi holds it first workshop for self-starters!

by Claire O'Grady (Mozambique Field Manager)

5 December 2014


Twenty-one representatives met in Lilongwe for a three-day workshop in November. The eclectic group included researchers, project managers, and IT specialists who hailed from an assortment of districts across Malawi and several different countries in the region. Linking this disparate group together was the fact that everyone in the room had used CommCare before, and had projects at various stages.

It was Dimgai’s first ever workshop targeting “self-starters”, people who have started their own CommCare project without any dedicated support from Dimagi. Given the participants’ experience, the workshop jumped straight to more advanced material, focusing on strategies to maximize CommCare’s capabilities through thoughtful design patterns and sophisticated workflows.

The workshop followed a flexible schedule with many small-group sessions on topics that participants highlighted as interesting or relevant to them. Throughout the workshop, participants designed and built their own practice applications, immediately putting to use the new material. Special attention was given to case management and the array of functionality open to you when you include it in your app. There were also opportunities for users to share their hopes and ideas for CommCare and directly influence which features get prioritized.


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