The trial of data collection from various plant clinics has been launched in Kenya and Uganda. The giving of advice to small holder farmers and the collection of data are both integral parts of the Plantwise program. The farmers wants to know how to address the problem with their crop whereas the data is of use to the national government and Plantwise.
The data collection method that is being trialled has all the advantages of a paper system as well as those of a technological solution. Carbonless copies are made by the plant doctors in the clinics as they are examining the plant material and questioning the farmers. The farmer takes the carbon copy and the top copy remains with the clinic. At regular intervals the completed forms are taken to a central location and scanned into a computer and emailed to CABI at Egham.
On receiving the emails ICR (Intelligent Character Recognition) software is run on the documents and the data incorporated into an excel spreadsheet. To speed up the process of data collection in the clinic and to enhance the accuracy with which the computer can read the sheet many of the questions have tick-box answers although details of the location of the disease and other details have to be written out in full.
After reading the forms there is a validation step, anything the computer cannot read or is uncertain of is flagged up and human intervention is required.
The trial is expected to last until early 2011 whereupon if successful it will be scaled up to include more countries in other continents.
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[…] ground – something CABI is aiming to do by collecting data at its global plant clinics (see this blog entry), as well as providing access to published data via CAB Abstracts and producing Distribution Maps […]