Kenya’s Bamba Group uses tech to modernise data collection

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Launched three years ago, Kenyan startup Bamba Group is revolutionising the way data is collected using SMS and the web.

In a country where companies struggle to track the performance of their staff and governmental data collection is usually done on a door-to-door basis, Bamba Group is deploying technology to help organisations increase their efficiency.

The startup’s SMS, app and web data collection software enables clients to communicate, survey and obtain feedback from beneficiaries, clients, suppliers and the public.

“Bamba was started with the aim to develop a data collection solution to help solve the problem every organisation faces – how to increase efficiency while using less time and resources to deliver the organisation’s objectives,” co-founders Al Ismaili and Shez Tejani told Disrupt Africa.

The startup’s goals are ambitious. It is already operating in Kenya and the United States (US), with Ismaili and Tejani saying Bamba Group’s plan is to open offices across the globe. Immediate targets are South America and Southeast Asia.

These targets appear to be justified by the success the company has already seen. Disrupt Africa reported in February Bamba Group was selected to participate in the Techstars accelerator held in Austin, Texas, becoming the first East African company accepted onto the programme. With it, the previously self-funded startup gained US$100,000 in investment.

“The founders’ passion for what we do and our ambition to make Bamba a great company have been the key to our success to date. We have grown in size with many more employees and clients,” the co-founders said.

It initially took the startup over a year to obtain its first client, with Zachinyaeva saying the market was not ready for such a product. Yet progress has been swift, with the company’s work with Kwale County on a budgetary survey indicative of its development and the potential usages of its data collection tools.

Hired to collect data from 25,000 hard-to-reach target individuals by the Kwale County government on what services were most needed, Bamba Group set about revolutionising the way data is collected at a county level in a programme funded by the UK Department for International Development (UKAID).

“Traditionally door-to-door surveys are used to gather this information. However, such an approach has a number of drawbacks – it is expensive and time consuming, and has a high likelihood of data loss and data manipulation,” Ismaili and Tejani said.

Using real-time SMS surveys to which recipients could respond for free, along with airtime incentives to boost response rates, Bamba set about collecting the relevant data.

“The system initiated directly on a citizen’s mobile phone via SMS and recorded all communication thereafter. The Bamba platform grouped answers into categories immediately upon receipt. The recorded data fed into real-time data management dashboards and reports,” said Ismaili and Tejani.

The project reached over 25,000 individuals within three days, with county residents starting to respond to the SMS survey within hours of its launch. The mobile airtime incentive increased the reporting rate from three per cent to a statistically significant 12 per cent.

“It produced beautiful dashboards that displayed the real-time survey results. The Kwale County government used this data to make decisions on where to spend their fiscal budget,” said the co-founders.

Working closely with clients to ensure the data collection system meets their requirements is key to the company’s philosophy.

“To use our basic solution we charge customers a license fees. For larger projects where we deploy a lot more features of the system we also charge implementation fees,” Ismaili and Tejani said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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