What to do in case a tablet gets broken, damaged, or destroyed.

January 23, 2017

The tablets used for data collection may get damaged or broken during the field work. If this happens:

  1. interviewer should immediately report this to his/her supervisor;
  2. supervisor should inspect the tablet and confirm the damage (often interviewers report tablets as broken when the tablets completely discharge and require long-press for power button to power up);
  3. supervisor should record the loss of a tablet and issue a replacement (possibly taking notes on the specifics of the devices lost and issued: model, serial number, date, interviewer name and login, circumstances of the loss, etc).
  4. interviewer should login to the new tablet issued, synchronize, and continue working.

The following information is lost: data stored on the tablet that hasn’t been synchronized to the data server.

The following information survives: survey assignments created at HQ and data that has been previously synchronized from the tablet, including assignments previously synchronized and rejected back to the interviewer.

If the supervisor fails to inspect the tablet and confirm the damage and the tablet is later found to be working while the replacement tablet has been already introduced to the stock, the data from the old tablet will not be accepted by the system. See warnings illustrated in this article.

To minimize damages from the physical damage:

  • issue appropriate protection for the tablets (cases, bags, screen covers, etc);
  • explain to the interviewers during training that the tablets are fragile, explain how to handle them, what to do and what not to do;
  • synchronize tablets as often as possible to minimize the amount of data stored on the tablet that is not also sent to the server.

Tablets usually contain few parts and are not easy to repair, especially in the field conditions. In some cases if the battery fails the tablet could still be powered up from an external battery or an external power source. This could help prevent loss of data on the tablet by letting it to synchronize one last time (in that case all started assignments must be declared as completed so that they are transferred to the server).
Some tablets allow replacements of the screen when it is damaged.

Such alternatives are usually expensive, require careful planning and can’t be conducted in the field. It is universally cheaper to repeat the interviews than to attempt a forensic recovery of the remnants of the data from a damaged tablet.

The developers of the Survey Solutions software can not provide such services of data recovery from damaged tablets.