An accessible, usable Open Data Kit tool

The starting point for the new mobile application, LINKS, was the open source project Open Data Kit (ODK). LINKS runs on Android devices (cellphones and tablets) running Android version 2.3 and higher.

Features of LINKS (and other ODK variants)

Survey files are written in Xforms, a standard format

Survey files can include multiple data element types including numeric, text, categorical, barcode, GPS, etc.

Surveys can be designed with skip patterns and logical checks

Surveys can be collected completely offline

Surveys can be written to display in multiple languages

Features of LINKS (specific to our branch)

Support for localization within the application not just the survey files

Auto send to server on save of survey (continue to try to send if no connection)

Before saving you are presented with a summary of the record

If you try to exit a survey you have started you are warned you will lose the record

Custom logo within the app

Reduced menu items

New menu item option to display mobile website

Password protected admin section

Removed all editing features

Internet access available notification bar

Ability to write 6 levels to the SQLite database and select those data in other surveys


A server based application, ODK Aggregate, processes incoming XML data and writes those data to a MySQL database. A dynamic web interface was developed to present the collected data to the user in the form of tables, graphs, maps, and downloadable datasets. The system was built on Ubuntu Linux running on Elastic Cloud (AWS EC2) infrastructure to enhance security, availability, and to allow for rapid scaling. Geotrust SSL certificates were installed to encrypt the data during transmission and between the user's browser and the server. Data is managed through the web interface or downloaded for offline use outside of the system.


The LINKS system was developed as a flexible and shared platform to promote collaboration through supporting a wide range of public health data collection and data management needs at low cost. LINKS can run on a wide range of locally accessible hardware, fully provisioned from the field, and be effectively used in both highly connected and connection-poor settings. LINKS was built entirely with open source software to avoid costly licensing fees and is cloud-based to allow for centralized management and increase scalability for large, highly dispersed projects. Because all the data are stored in a centralized database the system can be used to report activity across a range of countries and projects. We are leveraging this design to provide greater visibility to our donors and other stakeholders and support use of the data through automated analysis reports.