Background. Low-cost handheld computers (PDA) potentially represent an efficient tool for collecting sensitive data in surveys. The goal of this study is to evaluate the quality of sexual behavior data collected with handheld computers in comparison with paper-based questionnaires. Methods. A PDA-based program for data collection was developed using Open-Source tools. In two cross-sectional studies, we compared data concerning sexual behavior collected with paper forms to data collected with PDA-based forms in Ancon (Lima). Results. The first study enrolled 200 participants (18-29 years). General agreement between data collected with paper format and handheld computers was 86%. Categorical variables agreement was between 70.5% and 98.5% (Kappa: 0.43-0.86) while numeric variables agreement was between 57.1% and 79.8% (Spearman: 0.76-0.95). Agreement and correlation were higher in those who had completed at least high school than those with less education. The second study enrolled 198 participants. Rates of responses to sensitive questions were similar between both kinds of questionnaires. However, the number of inconsistencies (p = 0.0001) and missing values (p = 0.001) were significantly higher in paper questionnaires. Conclusion. This study showed the value of the use of handheld computers for collecting sensitive data, since a high level of agreement between paper and PDA responses was reached. In addition, a lower number of inconsistencies and missing values were found with the PDA-based system. This study has demonstrated that it is feasible to develop a low-cost application for handheld computers, and that PDAs are feasible alternatives for collecting field data in a developing country.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Supported by the Joint International Infectious Disease Initiative of the Wellcome Trust and the Burroughs-Wellcome Foundation (059131/Z/99/ A), by the University of Washington Center for AIDS Research Grant AI 27757, and STI-TM Cooperation Research Center AI by the NIH Fogarty International Center AIDS International Training and Research Program Grant D43-TW00007, by the Comprehensive International Program of Research on AIDS Grant 5U19AI053218, and by the Global Health Peru Program at UPCH, a Fogarty International Center/NIH funded grant (5R25TW007490).