The World Bank is a multilateral development bank with mission to fight poverty and improve the living standards of people in the developing world. It is one of the largest sources of development assistance and provides loans, policy advice, technical assistance and knowledge sharing services to low and middle income countries to reduce poverty. The Bank promotes growth to create jobs and to empower poor people to take advantage of these opportunities. It funds infrastructure development and sustainable poverty reduction projects. In 2003 the World Bank provided $18.5 billion and worked in more than 100 developing countries, bringing finance and/or technical expertise toward helping them reduce poverty. It employs more than 10,000 professionals from nearly every country in the world at its Washington DC headquarters and 109 country offices.
The World Bank needed to conduct an extensive socio-economic survey all across Mumbai in connection with Mumbai Urban Transport Project of which the bank is one of the principal funding agencies. This involved collection of response data to a very complex questionnaire from several thousand respondents. The conventional method of recording responses using paper and pen while out in the field by enumerators is not only difficult and error prone but it also means that the information collected cannot be analyzed very quickly. This process is slow and fraught with potential transcription errors, and doesn't let the analysts act on up-to-date information. One of the most important aspects of this survey was that data collected in Mumbai was needed in the bank's headquarters in Washington DC, USA at the earliest, which was not possible with pen and paper based conventional survey method. Another problem faced during survey design was that due to the large questionnaire size, each complete survey set ran into several pages. This created the problem that to administer the survey each enumerator would have to carry bulky files with attendant potential problem of missing pages and of storing the voluminous files. Another area of concern was that to maintain the accuracy of data in relation to the point of data collection as the interpretation of data was to a large extent dependent on where it was collected. The World Bank was therefore looking for a solution that would:
Using Palm® handheld computers and Geographical Positioning System (GPS) receivers, we developed an electronic survey administration system. This system allows the enumerators to administer the survey in the field on their handheld Palm® devices obviating the need to carry bulky paper files. The system keeps track of the complex data collection rules and enforces data accuracy by co-relating responses. Using GPS functionality built into the handheld, a GPS reading was recorded and attached to each individual survey to ensure that surveys are conducted on location and this data became extremely useful in plotting GIS information on top of the response analysis. At the end of each day the enumerators transferred the data collected into a small removable memory chip, which was used as secure backup device as well as transfer mechanism for transferring data to a supervisor's handheld device. The consolidated survey data from the supervisors Palm® was downloaded to PCs and transferred electronically to the World Bank.
The survey was deployed on Palm® handhelds. The data is downloaded to PC-based Microsoft® Access database and then transferred to World Bank for analysis. Custom conduits were developed by us to upload data from the Palm® to the PC.
This solution helped the World Bank to conduct surveys efficiently and accurately right in the field. It was possible to conduct more number of surveys per enumerator per day and the total cost of survey was greatly reduced. The accuracy of data was enough to satisfy even the most critical benchmarks of the World Bank. Our solution provided the following solutions and benefits for each of the problem areas identified by the World Bank: