The Art of Designing Data Collection: The Indaba Experience

Global Integrity
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By Lyle Turner and Monika Shepard

With more than a decade of experience collecting millions of data points and working with partners and clients to produce relevant data sets, we at Global Integrity have developed keen insights when it comes to defining and maintaining an optimum data collection process. Here are some thoughts on what we have learned and where we are going.

What we have learned

The research process can be tedious and cumbersome, requiring constant coordination of shifting priorities and many moving pieces.  To make things easier and more dynamic, in 2010 we developed and released Indaba, a software platform to help optimize the resource-intensive data collection, review and research management workflow.

Indaba started as custom, in-house cloud-based software for Global Integrity’s data collection purposes. Over time – and through its use in practical fieldwork and generous feedback from others – Indaba evolved into a suite of online tools and services that simplify and streamline data collection. Beyond our own project work, Indaba has helped other organizations – such as The Carter CenterThe World Resources Institute and El Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad – coordinate and gather their unique data needs at both the local and global scales.

Indaba’s unique support for research methodology and workflow is the backbone of its functionality. That said, methodologies are dynamic systems and Indaba needs to reflect that in its design. From our own experience, design must:

  • Accommodate more flexible communication options
  • Include more task and tool guidance
  • Allow for variations in labeling and terminology
  • Provide more options to view and share data for progress checks and analysis review

Where we are going

In the coming year we will focus on improving the consistency of the user experience, with a focus on navigation, access and selection efforts throughout Indaba’s toolsets. With these and other considered enhancements we hope to improve on: the needs and issues that Indaba can address; the clients, partners and project managers that it serves; and document the impact of decisions and events.  After using Indaba, users can place more effort into effective projections, recommendations to open up their datasets to the world, and allow users to explore the data as they see fit.

Now, we think Indaba is good, but it can always be better.

Design is an iterative process derived through creative problem solving and listening. As we move forward with our development process, we hope to contribute to the community as well as learn from it. We welcome feedback and would love to hear your ideas or experiences that could improve Indaba. For example, if you have hands-on, best-practice advice for working in countries with web access trouble, what did/would you do? 

We look forward to your comments, email us at info[at] to get in touch with Global Integrity’s Indaba team.

Global Integrity
Global Integrity

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