IPIS Technical Consultancy

Over the years, IPIS has learned a lot about field-data collection, GIS mapping, data management and analysis, and development of visualisation tools such as interactive web-maps and dashboards. Do you prefer learning from an NGO with similar mapping or data-oriented projects as yours? We can help you!

What can we help you with 

1. Setting up a data collection campaign

About you

You’re planning to set up a field data collection campaign, but the number of different tools and approaches seems a little overwhelming. You find yourself wondering how they work, where to start, and how you should prepare your questionnaires.

Mambassa 2
We’ve been there before

When we wanted to scale up our mining site visits, we needed to switch from paper-only to digital questionnaires. We equipped about a dozen teams with smartphones and robust satellite phones, trained them on how to use them, translated our questionnaires to advanced XLSforms and leveraged OpenDataKit and KoBo to manage a live stream of data from many visits. This system allows us to collect a range of information, including GPS points, photos, and text answers to a mix of choice, skip-logic and open-ended questions, while maintaining an overview of the entries in real time.

How we can help you

We can help you set up the entire data collection system: from the design of the questionnaires over the on-device collection to the management of live data entry. We’ll spend time on designing performant sampling strategies, writing comprehensive questionnaires and leveraging the advanced options of mobile phone questionnaires. We’ll show you how to download forms on a device, fill in a questionnaire and send the answers to a remote server. If needed, we can also train your enumerators in the field.

2. Processing and analysing large datasets

About you

Your organisation is working with large datasets, including geographic data, and you find yourself repeating the same calculations and plots in Excel too often. You need to make your analyses more powerful, easily reproducible, and you would like to prepare visualisations that you can update automatically when new data are added.

We’ve been there before

From Excel/OpenOffice, we switched to more powerful data science tools, including R and some of its advanced data wrangling and visualisation libraries to process large amounts of data on artisanal and small-scale mining. This allows us to quickly get overview statistics of our data, perform more advanced analysis, generate print-ready graphs, and save us from having to repeat the same actions multiple times in Excel. When new data is added or a project is extended, we re-run or re-use our R scripts to generate updated results and visualisations in a couple of seconds, allowing us to scale up our data analysis. Additionally, we use open-source GIS software such as QGIS to map our data, explore their spatial context, and make print maps at different formats. Finally, we increasingly use the opportunities offered by remote sensing technologies via Open Data Cube and Jupyter notebooks.

How we can help you

We can provide guidance with data analysis and help you picking the right tools, installing them and exploring how they work with your data. We’ll browse through your datasets, select relevant descriptive statistics and, if you like, help you make a simple map. This is a great way to get you more comfortable with handling your data, and a good first step to using more advanced techniques.

If you have some affinity with coding, we can also teach you a lot about R in three hands-on sessions: one to get introduced to R and identify your needs, one to learn about data manipulations, and one to make reproducible statistical reports of your dataset. We can also follow this up with a session on data visualisation.

3. Making static maps for print

About you

Your projects have an important geographic component, but you have the feeling that you haven’t been able to study your data fully in their geographic context. You’re looking for tools to visualise different layers, to investigate spatial correlations or to explore an array of resources freely available online such as satellite imagery or public datasets. Maybe your publications, or your office spaces, are filled with maps of someone else, and you think your data and your stories equally deserve to make it there.

ASM A0 map Ituri
We’ve been there before

When we stated mapping out mining sites in the vast region of eastern DRC, we needed tools to visualise our mine visits on maps. We currently use QGIS (and have used ArcGIS in the past) to make advanced maps with multiple layers, including mines, road networks, state borders, national parks, background imagery and labels. During our research, we use the same tools to perform spatial analysis and answer questions such as ‘how many mines are within 100km of this park?’, ‘which territory has the highest total number of miners?’, ‘how do the data spatially cluster?’, etc.

How we can help you

We can prepare high-quality thematic print maps for your projects, or we can introduce you to QGIS, a free and powerful Open Source application for mapping. We’ll teach you how to load data, handle layers, deal with spatial questions and make print maps.

4. Making webmaps

About you

There are many good reasons why you would like to make a webmap: you’re writing a story and just want to pinpoint some locations on a map for context, you are creating a multimedia campaign where your viewers can read about stories and explore data about a case you’ve been studying. Webmaps provide contextualisation, key visuals and invite users to engage further with your data for their own needs.

We’ve been there before

We’ve made webmaps for various projects, and they are an important part of our identity. For instance, our webmaps provide with contextual information about the conflict in the Central African Republic or IPIS field data on the artisanal and small-scale mining sector in eastern DR Congo. We also make use of story maps to easily communicate key results of our research by means of a guided narrative. We had to think about how users would interact with the data and what contextual layers would be useful. We’ve learned how to create webmaps, starting from QGIS projects using tools such as qgis2web for simple maps, or using JavaScript, Leaflet and Mapbox, for highly customisable webmaps.

How we can help you

We can build a full-blown custom webmap for you! We’ll listen your needs, help with data integration and develop a webmap that will be hosted on our or your servers. To do so, we’ll assist you in envisioning the map: what data can be used, who will use the map, and how can users interact with the data.

5. Creating a Web Portal or Data Dashboard

About you

You’re designing a project where data is entered, analysed or consulted using a database, and you want your users being able to do so without any technical knowledge on database. A simple and intuitive user interface should do. At the same time, you want your users to have a powerful overview of the database content: summary statistics, filter options and maybe a webmap.

How we can help you

Web portals and data dashboards are always custom-built for specific needs. We’ll sit down with you and think about the entire process: who will use it and what do the users want to or need to do. We can offer to build and maintain such a tool for you, in close collaboration with you.

6. Building a Data Strategy and setting up a Data Pipeline

About you

If your organisation finds itself processing large amounts of data, it’s maybe time to set up a data strategy. How do the data enter your system? How are they stored? Who can edit them? How are they analysed? How are they visualised?

We’ve been there before

We were passing around Excel sheets for a long time, but we ended up with conflicting copies of the same documents containing data, statistics and visualisation. A cleaner data pipeline helped make our data processing more scalable and our data analysis easily reproducible. Our current setup includes a simple file server, an externally hosted Postgres/PostGIS database and a GeoServer. A clean setup with many Open Source components also enable us to provide Open Data with little extra work.

How we can help you

We can help you devise a data strategy, structure your data pipeline and set up tailored systems. We’ll think about where data originate, how they are processed and where they end up. We’ll look for the right technology and make sure your data collection, management and processing tools all work together.

How we like to collaborate

  • We’ve learned a lot from other organisations, colleagues and consultants. Similarly, we feel our accumulated knowledge, combined with our in-field expertise, can be useful for other NGOs. We’d like to help you in an honest and durable way, at a fair price. Maybe you prefer to ask us to do something for you, maybe you’d like to become independent yourself. Let’s talk
  • In our own practice, we use a lot of Free and Open Source Software such as R, QGIS, GeoServer. It cuts our expenses significantly, gives us access to the lively support of the online Open Source community and opens up new technical possibilities.

Bonus

Organise a Mapathon together with us!

For a couple of years now, we’ve been organising/hosting Mapathons. They were ignited by the enthusiasm of the Open Source and Open Data people we’ve had the pleasure to meet in the past years – especially the volunteers of OpenStreetMap Belgium. During Mapathons, volunteers gather to put vulnerable places on an open source map, which everybody (and in particular NGOs) can use. Interested in organising a Mapathon with us in a region of your interest? Let us know!

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