In the middle of November, we participated in ODK convening 2019 in Seattle.
We went there in 2017 for the first convening and this year we were invited again to help make important decisions about the project we have been working on so hard for the last three years.
Seattle is a seaport city on the West Coast of the United States. With an estimated over 700 thousand residents, Seattle is the largest city in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America. For the project, it is a place where it was started (in 2008 as a google sponsored sabbatical project). For us, of course, it is also special because it is one of the four cities where we have our offices.
The goal of the convening was to:
- discuss governance, specifications, plans, and other topics important to the future of the project
- get to know each other better
- increase the knowledge and understanding of the scope of Open Data Kit project deployments
- volunteer to work on specific tasks
There have been about 45 people invited from all over the world so it was a unique opportunity for all of us (developers and users) to meet in person, share our ideas, experiences and thank each other for such great work we have done so far.
We spent three long and exhausting but very fruitful days making a lot of important decisions that made us sure the project will be developed in the right direction and will continually help thousands of people.
What exactly we achieved thanks to the convening?
- one of the exciting outcomes is that we’ve reached consensus on a governance structure that we believe will work for the overall project.
- we learned that we need to be more transparent about who is funding development, who does the work, and what systemic risks exist with that pairing.
- we have reached consensus at the TSC that structural changes will be needed to ensure greater sustainability of the tools and there is a desire within the TSC to make those changes.
- we gained greater clarity into the popularity of the various tools and discussed a rough strategy for the next few years.
- we spent quite a bit of time defining a minimal viable product for supporting longitudinal data collection in the ODK suite.
ODK stands for Open Data Kit. It is an open-source suite of tools for collecting, managing, and using data in resource-constrained environments. It allows for the collection of data offline and submission of the data when internet connectivity is available. It allows communities to aggregate data with full control over the collected data and the servers where this data is stored.
ODK consists of many tools, some of the most important are:
- ODK Collect – an Android app that replaces paper-based forms.
- ODK Aggregate – a proven server for data storage and analysis tool.
- ODK Central – a modern server with a RESTful API.
- ODK Build – a drag-and-drop form designer.
- ODK Briefcase – a desktop tool that pulls and exports data from Aggregate and Collects.
and a few other (smaller but also important) apps.
The project has been used in almost every country in the world and even in space! Yes in space, you can believe or not but it was in 2011 when Ronald Garan used ODK to monitor progress at the Carbon for Water program on the International Space Station.
The project has been used mostly in poor countries such as Nigeria, India, Kenya by nonprofits, governments, and researchers working on humanitarian issues at the biggest scales eg. World Health Organization, Red Cross, Red Crescent, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States Agency for International Development and many many others. ODK is widely used because it helps social good projects, regardless of size, collect critical data in the most challenging environments.
Some interesting real use cases that you can read about:
- Putting Nigeria’s floating informal settlement on the map with ODK https://forum.opendatakit.org/t/verbal-autopsies-powered-by-odk-used-in-push-to-better-track-global-deaths/22483
- Verbal autopsies powered by ODK used in push to better track global deaths https://forum.opendatakit.org/t/verbal-autopsies-powered-by-odk-used-in-push-to-better-track-global-deaths/22483
- Japan’s nature centers using ODK and Fusion Tables to digitize nature surveys https://forum.opendatakit.org/t/japans-nature-centers-using-odk-and-fusion-tables-to-digitize-nature-surveys/9094
- European Migration Crisis in Greece https://forum.opendatakit.org/t/odk-for-data-management-in-greece/9176
Open Data Kit is not only a project it is a huge community. We have a forum with over 10 thousand users, 11 thousand topics, 66 thousand posts and it is growing! Every day we answer many questions helping new users start their journey with ODK.
Our impact on the project
Soldevelo started working on ODK in 2016 when the management of the project was in a transition away from the University of Washington’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering (UW-CSE in Seattle) towards a community-led the open-source project.
For these three years, we have made a lot for the project. We have improved various tools implementing new features, fixing existing bugs, supporting users and providing quality assurance. Our impact on the project is best reflected in the diagram that represents the audience of ODK Collect (the most prominent tool which we have spent the most time on). There are over 200 thousand more active devices on which ODK is used compared to the number from 2016 when we joined that great project. That’s a huge number!
Our company not only has worked on ODK but we also had other projects which were built on the top of ODK so you can surely call us the ODK experts!
Overall the convening was a big success. We were able to make some very important agreements and come up with many really great ideas for the future. Now we can’t wait to turn those decisions into reality and make the project even better. Hopefully, we will participate in the next convening as well!
If you want to get to know more about ODK or even contribute as a volunteer we encourage you to contact us.