However, the team has been using this time wisely. By investing in improving processes and engagement they will have a head start once field activities resume.
We speak to Tropical Data’s data analyst, Sarah Boyd, to find out what she and the team have been working on while travel hasn’t been possible and many of us have been advised to stay at home.
I am a data analyst based at the International Trachoma Initiative, and I work in the Tropical Data data management team. My main job is to support health ministries before and during their surveys. Before a survey, I set up the data management tools needed: creating survey forms on the Tropical Data phone application and making sure everything is ready from our side when data arrives from the field.
When the teams start their surveys, my role is to actively support the collection of standardised data. For each project, survey recorders in the field use mobile phones to collect the data, which they upload to a secure server at the end of each day. Once the data begins to reach the server, my task is to provide near real-time updates about survey progress to the health ministry team.
I also identify and help to resolve any issues with the data. For example, if a recorder’s phone did not record a GPS location for a couple of households, I’ll bring this issue to the survey supervisor’s attention. The supervisor is then able to address this issue with the recorder before the next day of surveys. This feedback loop helps to ensure teams collect high-quality data.
Like any other team, COVID-19 has greatly affected our lives and interrupted our ‘normal’. However, we are fortunate that we’re used to working in different locations and time zones: we’re already accustomed to holding weekly virtual team calls and had a system for working remotely together.
Normally, Tropical Data is supporting active survey projects all the time, but as health ministries take precautions against COVID-19, trachoma work has slowed down. There are no active surveys in the field at the moment, but we can still prepare for when teams can start surveys again!
In collaboration with health ministries, Tropical Data has continued to work on preparing protocols and supporting planning, so the projects are ready for when field work is able to resume.