Solar Freakin’ Surveys For Conducting Offline Surveys

You might remember Craig Leisher and his team from the Nature Conservancy comparing paper based surveys to tablets. Well, Craig and his team have taken surveys to a whole new level: a solar-powered level. Yes, you read that correctly, solar freakin’ powered surveys!

solar freakin' surveys craig leisherWhat challenge did Craig experience?

Craig and his team journeyed to Mahale Mountain National Park in Tanzania to research the income of small-scale fishermen and farmers. There are no roads to the National Park, no electricity, and no Internet. To overcome this lack of infrastructure, Craig and his team used solar panels and a satellite phone to collect data using QuickTapSurvey’s offline survey app.

“We had solar panels on the roof of the office where we worked out of and those were used every night to recharge the tablets. We also rented a satellite phone with Wi-Fi built in, to upload the data via the satellite link.”

Craig described this research project as “one of the most intense surveys he ever completed” with 646 questions in the survey and 75 complex skip codes in a location with minimal infrastructure. He and his team used Samsung Galaxy Pro Tab 8.4 because of the GPS function and because Androids are about $100 cheaper than iPads. The tablets were stored in a waterproof holder until it was time to take them out.

The survey was designed to measure income among small-scale fishermen and farmers. The aim of the project is to provide income-generating opportunities for fishermen in exchange for them changing their fishing practices. It took an average of 21 minutes to do an interview.

How did QuickTapSurvey help Craig overcome this challenge?

Solar Freakin' Surveys Craig Leisher

QuickTapSurvey can be used anywhere

“Offline is a requirement for a project like this. We had three 200-Watt solar panels fed into 12 Volt batteries that stored the electricity captured during the day with an inverter that allowed the tablets to be plugged in and charged. The most the tablets draw is about 12 Watts when they are charging, so it wasn’t that much. We would charge them in the evening and by the time we would be going to sleep, they would be charged.”

“Learning curve for QuickTapSurvey is short”

“The surveys are easily modifiable under field conditions. It was easy to add missing responses to multiple-choice questions even with very limited connectivity. I also taught most of the local enumerators and supervisors how to create a QuickTapSurvey and how to edit it so they could make changes next year when we do the survey again.”

“Interface is easy to use”

“QuickTapSurvey is graphically very easy for the interviewers to read the question and select the answers. It has a nice interface and the learning curve on asking the questions is short.”

“QuickTapSurvey has encryption of the data”

“Institutional review boards like to see that personal identification variables are encrypted, so that’s a plus as well.”

Research Survey Nature Conservancy

David Wogan
David Wogan was an Online Marketing Specialist at QuickTapSurvey in 2014. Have a story idea? Email us at