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GLOBAL – Nokia Data Gathering may not sound, on first inspection, like the most glamorous service in the company’s portfolio. But once you know more, there’s little doubt that it’s among the most important. It’s a tool and a service for quickly and easily collecting survey data, often used in developing nations. Find out more about how it works and how it’s making an impact after the jump.

What it is

Basically, Nokia Data Gathering is survey software that works on mobile devices, allowing results to be sent, collated and analysed centrally. Being computerised yet based on cheap, readily available devices means that accurate information can be collected in hostile, remote environments in an extremely efficient and cost-effective way.

The software went open source in August and Nokia has entered into collaboration with the University of Nairobi for planning and development. The University hosted the first road mapping meeting at the beginning of this month to help decide future priorities for the product’s development with the community.

At the end of November, support was extended to Series 40 devices, allowing more people and organisations to make use of the service.

But what are people actually doing with the service?

In Kenya

Nokia Data Gathering is being used to give children the right to a legal identity. Only half of Kenya’s children are registered with the authorities, leading to problems when they need to travel, work or claim for something. The problem is that the registration process is slow and expensive, and has to be processed through paperwork by many hands. Plan Finland and Nokia have established a pilot project to transfer the process to mobiles, a vastly more speedy and efficient process that improves children’s rights. There’s more information on this from Kenyan newspaper, The Standard, here.

In Northern Turkana, Horn of Africa

In this area, the lack of suitable water supplies threatens agriculture, economic wellbeing and health. Better information for the authorities can help them react and plan more quickly and accurately. A current project has established mobile data collection points at over 500 water points and is growing quickly.

In Brazil

There are thousands of registered dengue fever cases annually in the Amazon Basin – it’s a disease with serious symptoms and consequences. Again, lack of timely and accurate information has made it hard for the authorities and NGOs to react appropriately. In this case, a relatively small project of four campaigns each with 30 data collectors has had stunning results: a 93% cut in dengue fever cases (from 3522 in 2008 to 245 in 2009).

You can find out more from the product site or the online community site. Let us know what you think.