About Kobo

- the Nonprofit Behind KoboToolbox

About our organization

Kobo is an international non-profit organization that hosts and maintains KoboToolbox, the world's most popular tool for data collection, management, and visualization in challenging settings. We are a nonprofit organization registered in Cambridge, MA in the United States. Our mission is to host and maintain KoboToolbox and to support open source data systems and technology for global development, peace, human rights and humanitarian action. Read more about our mission and values.

KoboToolbox is used and trusted by over 14,000 organizations around the world. By providing KoboToolbox free of charge, Kobo helps to ensure that humanitarian action and initiatives promoting peace, human rights and sustainable development are informed by high quality, up-to-date data generated by affected communities using simple, reliable, and secure technologies.

Kobo works in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), as well as in cooperation with many nonprofit organizations and through its affiliation with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) to improve humanitarian data collection methods worldwide.

Through partnerships and other kinds of collaborations, Kobo provides a wide range of services to set up and host corporate KoboToolbox servers, create new software features, provide user support and training, and find novel ways of collecting and analyzing data, among others. Kobo is sustained financially through partnerships and service agreements with other organizations, as well as through grants from private foundations. We also depend on donations from our users and private donors to help keep KoboToolbox free and to continue providing the highest possible security and reliability for users around the world---especially for organizations in low-income countries. Click here to make a donation today.

History of KoboToolbox

KoboToolbox was founded in 2005 by Phuong Pham and Patrick Vinck, now faculty at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In its early years, KoboToolbox had become a tool of choice for survey researchers working in challenging environments, such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Northern Uganda. Through this work, several humanitarian and development organizations became aware of KoboToolbox as a better way to collect data instead of arduous paper-based methods. As the first major international organization, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) adopted KoboToolbox in 2010 to systematically collect all data needed to disarm and reintegrate former armed groups in the Central African Republic.

In 2013, KoboToolbox, by then a project at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative as well as Brigham and Women's Hospital, partnered with UNOCHA and the International Rescue Committee to expand KoboToolbox into a comprehensive platform for humanitarian data collection. Starting in 2014, KoboToolbox has been available to organizations and individuals through public servers hosted by project partners, as well as through many KoboToolbox servers hosted by individual organizations for internal use. Due to the rapid adoption by hundreds of humanitarian organizations, the platform has been continuously expanded to address urgent field needs and to scale it to accommodate exponential growth. In 2016, KoboToolbox began working closely with UNHCR to improve data collection for assisting refugees and internally displaced persons and to support UNHCR's own KoboToolbox servers.

In 2019, Kobo was set up as an independent non-profit organization to ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of KoboToolbox, as well as to support open source data systems and technology for global development, peace, human rights, and humanitarian action.

Our team has partnered with, or provided support, to a wide range of organizations to improve data collection around the world. As of 2022, KoboToolbox has partnered with, or provided support to, a wide range of organizations that include the International Office for Migration (IOM), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Save the Children, the African Development Bank, the World Bank Group, the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), Education Above All, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement, and many others.

About KoboToolbox

KoboToolbox is a free and open source platform for the collection, management, and visualization of data that is used and trusted by thousands of organizations around the world. It is the most widely used primary data collection tool in the nonprofit sector, used by the vast majority of humanitarian organizations, development actors, public health institutes, research organizations, education facilities, and many related actors. It is used in every humanitarian crisis or health emergency and in virtually every country around the world. Today, KoboToolbox has more than 700,000 users globally who collect over 15 million surveys a month.

Why many organizations choose KoboToolbox
  • KoboToolbox was created to be as user-friendly as possible, to allow organizations to focus on collecting high quality data without spending precious time and budgets on lengthy technical training.
  • Our tools were built specifically to respond to the unique needs of collecting interview data in challenging and constrained environments, such as in humanitarian crises and fragile and conflict-affected countries.
  • KoboToolbox was built to be used to collect data on inexpensive mobile devices and without requiring any internet, while also providing a full suite of advanced functionalities to survey administrators to manage and visualize data.
  • It is free for regular use to create an unlimited number of surveys and to collect data without requiring an agreement or payment method.
  • Individual user support and organization-level support, customization options, upgrades for large-scale surveys, and other services are available on demand.
  • KoboToolbox was built to be compatible with the XLSForm standard and ODK XForms, making it easy to migrate from other tools to KoboToolbox, or vice versa.
  • The tools are available in dozens of languages, making it easy to work with global and local teams. Click here to join our translation teams.
  • Survey forms can be translated and used in hundreds of different languages.

Services and Partnerships

KoboToolbox is open source software that is free for regular use to create an unlimited number of surveys and to collect data without requiring an agreement or payment method. Any individual or organization is free to create an account and start collecting data immediately.

User support

There are several optional plans for individual user support and organization-level support that can be added as a paid subscription. All plans include having access to dedicated professional user support from the KoboToolbox team, responses to technical questions, and troubleshooting potential problems. Advanced support can also include help with questionnaire design questions and consultations with senior KoboToolbox staff. Please reach out to sign up for a user support plan.

Large survey needs

Certain limits are established to ensure fair use of the server and which allow over 95% of users to use KoboToolbox for free. Beyond this, significant users with very large survey needs are required to get in touch to arrange to pay for a large volume subscription. Because Kobo is a nonprofit organization, these optional fees only serve to cover actual costs related to hosting and maintaining KoboToolbox and are scaled by usage levels. These additional fees also help keep the tool free for the majority of users.

Automatic transcription and translation

Our new features for automatic speech recognition and machine translation rely on external providers that are associated with a cost. Users or organizations that want to use this service can get in touch to opt-in to these additional features.

Feature development and other enhancements

Since its beginning, Kobo has valued a large number of partnerships, joint initiatives, and service agreements to develop new features for KoboToolbox. Many of the features available today were initially identified as needs together with our humanitarian and development partners whose users in the field required the enhancements. Our design and technical specialists work with potential partners to discuss what is feasible, how new ideas can best be implemented, and what the respective costs may be in each case. This may include large new additions, small tweaks, or enhancements to fit with specific internal regulations.

We encourage you to send us a message to discuss any ideas that you may have and that your organization may want to sponsor or develop with Kobo.

Setting up and maintaining KoboToolbox servers

Our team has extensive experience installing and providing system administration for organizations' own internal KoboToolbox servers. Our current clients and partners include multiple United Nations agencies and international nonprofit organizations, among others.

Organizations can choose to have dedicated servers that are installed on Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, either in the United States or in the European Union. Organizations may also choose to have the servers installed on their own AWS or Azure environments.

There are three types of system administration support available for organizations who need their own KoboToolbox servers:

  • Hosting and system administration of KoboToolbox instance (hosting provided by Kobo): All relevant infrastructure is provided by Kobo on Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure (including multiple database servers for redundancy, file storage, email for system notification). We conduct all system administration necessary for the server resources, including making potential changes to the infrastructure to ensure stability, generate regular database backups, and regularly deploy new KoboToolbox releases. We also provide technical troubleshooting in case of any server issues to ensure uptime and regular functionality of the software for client users.
  • System administration on organization's own resources: We conduct all system administration necessary for the server resources, including making potential changes to the infrastructure to ensure stability, generate regular database backups, and regularly deploy new KoboToolbox releases. We also provide technical troubleshooting in case of any server issues to ensure uptime and regular functionality of the software for client users.
  • Second-line system administration support for self-hosted instances: Organizations themselves conduct system administration necessary for the server resources. Specialists from the Kobo team respond to technical questions and provide second line technical support for technical troubleshooting in case of any server issues to assist with troubleshooting, identify solutions, and suggest changes to the infrastructure based on current usage patterns.

Please contact us to learn more about setting up or maintaining a KoboToolbox instance for your organization.

Training services

In addition to the many free self-learning resources available, we regularly provide custom sessions for organizations who require training for their teams. Training sessions are done remotely or in person and can be done in multiple languages. Standard training packages include the following items:

  • Essentials training for beginners
  • Data collection and data management in-depth training
  • Advanced form development training
  • Advanced training on using PowerBI for developing custom dashboards using KoboToolbox data

Other topics and custom training packages are available on demand. Please get in touch to discuss training options for your organization.

Research planning and consultations

Our team has extensive experience planning, conducting, analyzing, and publishing surveys in over 20 countries. In fact, it was our research work that made us first develop KoboToolbox back in 2005. We have affiliations with Harvard University and York University and have worked with many international organizations to collect survey data as part of evaluations, understand population needs, and investigate the impact of conflicts on vulnerable populations. You can find much of our research on PeacebuildingData.org.

If you are interested in working with us on a research project, please let us know what you have in mind, and we can discuss if we are the right partner for the project.

Impact

We maintain and host KoboToolbox, a data collection, management, and visualization platform used globally for humanitarian actions, as well as support open source data systems and technology for global development, peace, human rights and humanitarian action around the world.

More than 14,000 non-governmental and international organizations involved in humanitarian assistance, economic development, public health, and many related sectors use our tools to provide aid to millions of people worldwide, including in every humanitarian crisis and development context. KoboToolbox is also actively used by virtually all UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, as well as more than 350 government institutions and many international development banks.

Our tools are multilingual by default and are built to foster deeper engagement and accountability to local communities. As a result, more than 170 million people in humanitarian crises were positively impacted as a result of organizations using KoboToolbox between 2016-2021, according to an independent audit by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Beyond this, our work has impacted displaced populations and children and youth affected by attacks on education, for example through our work with UNHCR, the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement, as well as the Track Attacks on Education (TRACE) Data Portal that was established together with Education Above All and UNESCO.

Learn more about how KoboToolbox is used around the world in different sectors to make a difference by visiting our blog. :

Theory of change

Our theory of change is that by making detailed, reliable and up-to-date data available on a regular basis in order to monitor key indicators of progress in key development goals (food security, education and peace), national and state governments, as well as multilateral and non-governmental actors will be in a position to make better decisions to break the cycle of violence and achieve key development goals.

Mission and Values

Mission

The mission of Kobo, Inc. is to host and maintain KoboToolbox, a data collection, management, and visualization platform used globally for humanitarian actions and to support open source data systems and technology for global development, peace, human rights and humanitarian action.

Vision

Humanitarian action and initiatives promoting peace, human rights and sustainable development will be informed by high quality, up-to-date data generated by and with concerned communities using simple, reliable and secure technologies.

Values

  • Accessibility: we maintain and support free and open-source tools that are simple and accessible to all organizations promoting social good. We believe providing quality tools and services to local, often under-resourced actors and volunteer networks is key to achieving our vision.
  • Compatibility: we strive to maintain and contribute to open-source projects and adopt open standards to ensure compatibility with other tools and enhance flexibility to customize our platforms while minimizing fragmentation of tools and building transferable skills and mutual support.
  • Ground-truth: we develop tools that are designed by and for practitioners. Our team has deep experience in humanitarian and peacebuilding operations. Our structure is governed by humanitarians and for the benefit of the wider humanitarian community.
  • Respect and inclusiveness: Kobo, Inc. is dedicated to protect the human rights, autonomy and dignity of all persons, inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.

Strategic Approach

Kobo Inc. will build on its unique expertise and achieve its mission by:

  • Maintaining the free and open source platform KoboToolbox
  • Building or customizing technology and data application
  • Convening and supporting users and communities through resources, training and standards
  • Providing innovative learning opportunities for field researchers

Contact

Drop us a line if you want to upgrade your account, collaborate, or have other questions.

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