What is Open Data Kit – ODK

Online ODK Course
Online ODK Course

What is Open Data Kit – ODK

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Before we begin I assume you have heard of the term mobile data collection; which simply refers to the act of collecting data using mobile devices. The devices could be mobile phones or tablets. Well then, Open Data Kit is one of the many tools that are used for mobile data collection.  

Open data kit, commonly referred to as ODK is a set of popular free and open source tools that allow us to collect data using mobile devices. Being a pioneer tool of this nature, ODK is one of the most popular mobile data collection tool. The fact that it is free and open source also makes it a darling to many researchers considering the budget constraints that come about in many projects. Other reasons for its popularity are an active online support base and community and the fact that it has been tried and tested. It is worth mentioning that ODK best works on smartphones running the Android mobile operating system. Advanced users may find ways of running it on other devices such as iPhones but you are advised to stick to android devices unless you know what you are doing.

ODK is made of three (3) components that work together. These components are:

ODK Collect

ODK Collect T4D

This is a mobile application hosted on the Android Play Store. The app is free and easy to download and install. The app renders the survey on the phone where enumerators fill out the survey questions.


These are the survey authoring tools. The term survey authoring refers to the transformation of paper questionnaires to digital forms that can be accepted by the mobile devices.

To author forms, users have an option of using the ODK Build web interface or Microsoft Excel. ODK Build offers an easy to learn intuitive web interface. Microsoft Excel, on the other hand, has a steeper learning curve since users have to learn the xls syntax for authoring forms.  

ODK Aggregate

This is the survey data hosting platform or the database. You can easily download the latest version of ODK Aggregate from the official ODK website for free.

As always, a database needs to be hosted in a web server to allow remote and concurrent access. As such, non-technical users can easily host ODK Aggregate on google app engine cloud platform whereas technical users have the added option of implementing a local server installation using MySQL and Tomcat.

How does ODK work

HOw ODK Works

  • Digitize your questionnaire using ODK build or Microsoft Excel.
  • Upload the questionnaire to your mobile device (ODK Collect).
  • Collect data using your mobile device.
  • Upload data to ODK Aggregate.
  • Visualize, map, publish and analyze data inside ODK Aggregate.
  • Download data for analysis with other statistical software.

What type of data can you collect using ODK

  1. Numeric
  2. Text
  3. You can do calculations
  4. GPS
  5. Video
  6. Audio
  7. Photos/Image
  8. Scan barcodes
  9. Signatures and many more.


If you are planning to collect data using mobile devices, ODK is undoubtedly one of the tools that you should consider using.  Besides the obvious reasons of its popularity we mentioned above, ODK also allows you to collect data offline (without an internet connection). It also gives you a firm foundation and acts as a bridge to similar tools such as Ona.io, Survey CTO and Kobo Tool Box.