A Comparison of Tablet-Based and Paper-Based Survey Data Collection in Conservation Projects

There is growing use of household surveys by conservation organizations as they seek to measure the social impacts of conservation initiatives, especially in developing countries. Several recent health-sector studies suggest that computer-aided personal interviewing may be a cheaper and faster alternative to the traditional paper-based interviewing.

Here, a comparison of The Nature Conservancy-funded tablet computer-based and paper-based household surveys is presented. Because the tablet and paper surveys were not identical except for the data collection tool, the results are suggestive. In the comparison, the cost per completed interview for the tablet-based survey was 74% less than the paper-based survey average, and the average time per interview question for the tablet-based survey was 46% less than the paper-based survey average.

The cost saving came primarily from less need for data cleaning and lower enumerator fees. The time saving came primarily from faster data entry. The results suggest that there may be substantial savings in costs and time when using tablets rather than paper for survey data collection in a developing country.