Understanding CommCare Data

This section provides an overview of how data flows in CommCare, and describes the different types of data that you collect.

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Collecting Data in CommCare

The process by which data is collected and transmitted to the CommCare server involves several steps, streamlined for ease of use and efficiency.

Initially, data collection is facilitated through either CommCare’s mobile application or web application, where users can enter data directly into forms that are pre-configured to capture the necessary information for a particular project or study. In the cases of mobile applications, one the data is entered, it is stored locally on the device allowing for data collection in areas without immediate internet access. When the device connects to the internet, the collected data is then securely transmitted to the CommCare server, where it is stored and made available for reporting, analysis, and further action by authorized users. This system ensures both the flexibility of data collection in diverse environments and the secure, centralized aggregation of data for comprehensive analysis.

Accessing Data

Once the data is sent, who can access and download the data?

In most projects, data is accessed and downloaded by any CommCare HQ/web user with permission to view it. 

In some instances, where mobile users are sharing the same case list, one mobile worker may be able to see some of the data that was submitted by another mobile worker. This is called case sharing. However, case sharing is an advanced concept so we won't review it here. If your project will be using case sharing or you are simply interested in the concept, you can learn more about it here: https://dimagi.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/commcarepublic/pages/2143957537

Understanding the Types of Data in CommCare

There are a few kinds of data in CommCare: Raw Data and Metadata

Data (or Raw Data)

This is data directly collected from your questions in your CommCare application. Raw data, once analyzed, can help you understand progress towards your indicators and program effectiveness. For example, if you have a question like “what is the patient’s birth date” and the answer is "14 September 2012," that data both the question and the answer are then visible in CommCare HQ as data.

This data includes anything that is specific to the form design, including questions, answers, hidden values, and calculations. Examples include text, numbers, dates, and GPS coordinates.

There are two kinds of Raw Data

Form Data

This is data that is collected in a single form. A form data export will allow you to download submissions from any single form in an application.

Case Data

This is data collected for an individual case. A case data export will allow you to download all of the data which has been flagged as part of a case file (across all forms within the application).

Metadata (including Worker Activity Data)

In addition to data that you collect from your applications, CommCare also collects information on the backend during the data collection process that we call metadata. With Metadata, we can understand more about our data collection process. Some examples include:

  • Which mobile worker submitted the form

  • How long it took the mobile worker to complete the form

  • When the form was sent to the CommCare server over the mobile data network or Wi-Fi network

  • Whether the form is related to a case and, if so, which one?

For your convenience, Dimagi has developed a variety of reports to help understand worker activity as well as other metadata. You can see these in CommCare in our https://dimagi.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/commcarepublic/pages/2143955322.

Inspecting, Cleaning, & Visualizing your Data

In the https://dimagi.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/commcarepublic/pages/2143954973 section, we cover ways that you can explore your data in CommCare. This includes both your Raw Data and Metadata.

As part of this, you may also want to make edits directly to your data if there are errors. You can learn more about this in this section:

Finally, as a final step, we cover how you can analyze and visualize your data in