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PDA technology uses computer and software tools to be able to carry, and return with, data to remote field locations. It involves using computer data collection form design software to create interview forms and load them onto small hand held computers commonly called Personal Digital Assistants.


Most PDA's now use Microsoft Windows Mobile which is a computer operating system very similar to the one used on laptop and desktop computers (e.g. Microsoft Windows XP/Vista).

Instead of using a mouse click, the interviewer uses a thin pencil-like pointer called a stylus to tap an on-screen keyboard to choose letters or other functions.

PDA's can be carried to field locations with battery charge capacities of several days. They are able to be pre-loaded with thousands of data records or images, and to also collect thousands more records during interviews.

After in-field data collection, the PDA can simply be returned to the nearest computer for upload of the newly collected records. Alternately, if it is available, the collected data can transmitted to a centralized location using nearby cell phone connections. They can also be connected to computer networks for instantaneous upload of data to program headquarters. This can eliminate post survey hand typing of records from paper survey forms.


Simple forms can be built in a matter of minutes. Complex data collection forms using logics such as skip-questioning (i.e. "If gender is male, go to question 5, if gender is female skip to question 13" can also be easily built into PDA forms.

Multiple answers to a single PDA-designed question can use simple drop-down menus for interviewer selection eliminating additional typing and guaranteeing correct answers.

For survey interviewers or respondents lacking typing or writing skills, imagers can replace questions (e.g. images of rice sheaves, a fish, boy or girl).

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