KoboToolbox is a software platform for collecting and managing data in challenging environments. KoboToolbox helps organizations to conduct surveys, monitor and evaluate their projects, and generate evidence for their advocacy and organizing activities. KoboToolbox is designed to work both online and offline, which makes it suitable for places with low internet or cellular network penetration. KoboToolbox also supports data security, data quality, data analysis, and data visualization features. KoboToolbox is an open source and free software that can be customized and adapted to different contexts and needs.
Civil society organizations, advocacy groups, and grassroots movements that operate in democratic societies or regions with limited internet access. These actors often face challenges in collecting, managing, and utilizing data due to resource constraints and infrastructural limitations. KoboToolbox is designed to address these issues by providing a robust, adaptable, and user-friendly platform for data collection and analysis.
KoboToolbox serves a critical purpose in enhancing the effectiveness of petition or survey activities by enabling organizations to gather accurate and timely data. This data can inform strategic decisions, strengthen advocacy efforts, and improve government accountability. By facilitating offline data collection, KoboToolbox ensures that even in remote or internet-poor areas, valuable insights can be captured. The tool's capacity for customization allows it to be tailored to specific project needs, making it an invaluable asset for diverse initiatives.
Moreover, KoboToolbox contributes to the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of programs. Its open-source nature eliminates licensing fees (if self-hosted), while its ease of use reduces the need for extensive training. Nonprofit organizations can also benefit from using Kobo-hosted instances of the tool for free under their Community Plan, which offers 1 GB of file storage and 1,000 survey submissions per month. The platform has the ability to support multiple languages. By streamlining data management processes, KoboToolbox frees up resources that can be redirected towards impactful activities, ultimately amplifying the reach and influence of democratic efforts worldwide.
The budget for KoboToolbox depends on the hosting option and the project size. There are three options: Kobo-hosted, self-hosted, or hybrid.
- Kobo-hosted: This is cheap and easy for small to medium projects. KoboToolbox offers a free plan for nonprofits and paid plans for larger projects. The costs are mainly staff time to use the platform.
- Self-hosted: This is good for large or complex projects that need more customization, security, or offline access. Self-hosting means running the platform on one’s own server or cloud service. The costs are higher and include server fees, installation, maintenance, security, and backup. The staff may also need training to use and manage the platform.
The level of technical expertise required to implement KoboToolbox depends on the hosting option chosen. Kobo-hosted instances are easy to set up and use, requiring only basic computer skills and internet access. Self-hosted instances, on the other hand, require more technical knowledge and skills, such as installing and configuring the platform on a server or cloud service, ensuring data security and backup, and troubleshooting any issues that may arise. The level of effort required to implement KoboToolbox also varies depending on the hosting option and the project scope. Kobo-hosted instances are convenient and low-maintenance, requiring only minimal staff time to design, deploy, and analyze surveys using the platform's user interface. Self-hosted instances are more demanding and high-maintenance, requiring more staff time and resources to install, manage, and update the platform. In any case, some staff training may be needed to familiarize them with the platform's features and functionalities.
KoboToolbox offers various types of support for its users, depending on their needs and preferences. The support options are:
- Help page: This is a comprehensive online resource that provides guidance and technical documentation on how to use KoboToolbox.
- Community forum: This is an interactive platform where users can chat with thousands of other KoboToolbox users, ask questions, and share tips.
- Professional user support: This is a paid service that provides dedicated and customized support from the KoboToolbox team, such as data storage, survey submissions, custom domains, and dedicated support.
Cybersecurity is an important aspect of using KoboToolbox, especially for civil society organizations that work in challenging environments and deal with sensitive data. Kobo, Inc. has undertaken a number of precautions to ensure user data stored on their servers is secure, including encrypting all database content at rest and in transit as data is collected. More technically savvy users also have the option to enable an even higher level of encryption. The platform complies with Europe's General Data Protection Regulation.
According to the Cybersecurity Handbook for Civil Society Organizations, some of the considerations that organizations should:
- Choosing a suitable hosting option for KoboToolbox, whether it is Kobo-hosted or self-hosted, and understanding the trade-offs between convenience, customization, and security.
- Enabling encryption for data in transit and at rest, and optionally for data at the application level, to protect data from unauthorized access or interception.
- Following best practices for password management, such as using strong and unique passwords, changing them regularly, and using a password manager.
- Educating staff and partners on the basics of cybersecurity, such as how to avoid phishing, malware, and social engineering attacks, and how to use secure communication tools.
- Developing a cybersecurity plan that defines the roles and responsibilities of staff, the policies and procedures for data protection, and the contingency plans for data breaches or incidents.
The tool can be adapted to any language using the documentation provided by Kobo, Inc. here.