Thanks to an exciting new development, SOIL staff will soon be wandering through the streets, staring at excitedly at their cell phones. No, Pokemon Go isn’t coming to Haiti (yet) – but SOIL is going mobile!
After more than a year of research, we are moving forward with setting up a new data system for EkoLakay, SOIL’s household toilet service. From tracking a potential customer to client contracts, payments, and bucket collections, running the EkoLakay service generates a ton of important data. When we first started the service in 2011, we put all of that data in an Excel spreadsheet – and 700 customers and 6 interconnected documents later, we are more than ready for a more robust system!
But what kind of system turned out to be a challenging question to answer. We wanted a proper database to ensure that we could establish relationships between pieces of data: we wanted to be able to track payments in one place and bucket collections in another, but still be able to get a snapshot of both kinds of information for any given client. We also needed to be able to produce a wide variety of reports, such as a list of all prospective customers who need home visits, and analyze data in a user-friendly way.
At the same time, we are dealing with several constraints that ruled out many traditional business databases. For example, we need to be able to collect data and do the vast majority of our tasks offline, since connectivity isn’t always possible. In addition, few of our data collectors speak English, so we needed a system capable of translation.
We sorted through dozens of systems – and even thought about creating our own from scratch. But at long last, we found the right one. We’ll be piloting an Android application called Taroworks, which was developed a few years ago by the Grameen Foundation, an organization affiliated with the Nobel peace prize-winning microfinance institution. Since Taroworks was developed for offline “last mile” use, it has the flexibility we need; because it’s linked to SalesForce, one of the largest database systems in the world, it has the reporting, automation, and other database features that Fortune 500 companies use.
So now it’s game time! Customizing the database, designing our tasks, setting up the Creole translation key, and a host of other tasks need to be tackled before we’re ready to pilot it in the field, but it’s so exciting to finally have arrived at this point. It’s just a matter of time until SOIL’s staff take to the streets with their cell phones – but capturing new clients instead of Pokemons and Pikachus!