Enhancing KoBo Toolbox

KoBoToolbox is used in most forced displacement settings around the world. The JDC supports its development, enhancing its function as a Global Public Good.

13 Jul, 2023

Overall objectives

The overall objective of this activity is to support the ongoing development of KoBoToolbox to enhance its function as a Global Public Good for data collection and analysis in the forced displacement context. In the medium term, this activity will support the development of an enabling environment that ensures sustainable funding, that will in turn facilitate longer term planning and sustainability for KoBoToolbox.

This project aims to strengthen KoBoToolbox as a public good for collecting data on humanitarian and development situations including those affected by forced displacement through improved sustainability and knowledge management. The ultimate beneficiaries of the activities outlined in this activity will be KoBoToolbox users, particularly those using it to collect data on forced displacement. Specifically, these efforts should improve user experience by ensuring that the tool will continue to be available for years and will be regularly updated. Additionally, the activities defined here will aim to improve data literacy and standards through improved knowledge management, and ultimately better the quality of data for informing humanitarian and development decision-making.

Activity description

There are three main components of this activity, namely: 

1 – Oversight and Business Sustainability

This plan will help ensure the sustainability of KoBoToolbox as a Global Public Good by developing a governance structure and a business model that ensures KoBoToolbox’s longevity and identifies current gaps in long-term funding. The oversight protocol aims to ensure that future development of KoBoToolbox is for the benefit of the humanitarian and development community, with a focus on data on forced displacement.

2 – Feature Development

This component will support the development and customization of KoBoToolbox’s features, complementing other planned improvements. The features will also take into account the needs of the users at UNHCR and the World Bank, as well as the time limits for this activity and technical capacity of the engineering team. Improvements will focus on upgrading KoBoToolbox’s survey design platform (Formbuilder), and graphic interface. Modernizing these two features will allow KoBoToolbox users to better design and streamline data collection and to analyze data when it is collected. Both features will utilize existing back-end updates that are currently unavailable to users due to outdated interfaces. The new interfaces will enable more nuanced and exact questionnaire design and more accessible data for analysis.

3 – Knowledge Building

This component focuses on knowledge-building, centered on boosting engagement among humanitarian and development users of KoBoToolbox and encouraging peer-to-peer learning and will include (i) curating, translating, and organizing training materials, tutorials, best practices, and uses cases developed by KoBoToolbox users and developers; (ii) identifying gaps; (iii) filling gaps, including sharing clear and practical guidance about data protection and security; (iv) increasing the library of support articles and content for users; (v) maintaining the KoBoToolbox Community Forum and the discussion boards; and (vi) organizing events around best practices for data collection, protection, use, and analysis by sector and region.

Engagement with partners

UNHCR and other partners including OCHA, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will be engaged at every stage of the sustainability enhancement process, as they are key stakeholders in maintaining KoBoToolbox. The feature development portion of this activity has involved consultation with UNHCR users of KoBoToolbox in the development of this proposal and is expected to have a positive impact on UNHCR data collection and analysis going forward. The knowledge-building and sharing portion of this activity will draw on training and technical support materials from partners including UNHCR, with an aim to benefit users across organizations.

Background and Context

KoBoToolbox was first created as an open-source  data collection tool in 2005. It was later adapted into a platform for data collection and analysis with a particular focus on supporting humanitarian response through a collaborative effort between the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) and UN agencies. It was later developed into an open-source and free platform for data collection and analysis with a particular focus on humanitarian efforts. Since its creation, KoBoToolbox has been extensively used for both data collection and analysis by many humanitarian and international agencies including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the World Bank Group (WBG). This is due to KoBoToolbox’s ability to provide the standard tool as well as a secure environment and foundation for collecting and storing data including needs assessments, surveys, and other data collected in the field. Moreover, its high degree of flexibility eases integration with other tools and systems, and its simple, but powerful, functionalities enhance data quality. KoBoToolbox has become an important resource for the forced displacement response community in general, as it is used in every displacement setting around the world.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, KoBoToolbox has proven a crucial element of many humanitarian and development-related response operations. Developers and members of the KoBoToolbox community have proactively provided cost-free access to unlimited server space, as well as guidance and templates for effective digital data collections forms for all organizations using these tools for COVID-19 response.

KoBoToolbox’s functionalities and ease of use have been designated as a ‘game-changer’ by many local stakeholders. Strengthening KoBoToolbox’s foundation in terms of its governance and business model will help to ensure long-term sustainability of this platform as a free and reliable resource.

In line with the Joint Data Center’s (JDC) effort to strengthen data systems and fill data gaps, this activity addresses the issues around improving the quality of microdata by the implementation of innovative tools and methods at the different stages of data production.


For further details on this activity, please contact:

Harriet Mugera – [email protected]

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