This section aims at clarifying the vocabulary used in Activity and giving an insight on the different levels of an ActivityInfo data structure.
An Information system (IS) is an integrated set of components for collecting, storing, and processing data and for delivering information, knowledge, and digital products; [Encyclopedia Britannica, 2015]. Information systems comprise hardware (computers, mobile phones, forms, etc.), softwares, procedures (policies governing the operation of the computer system), data and most importantly, people. When an organization uses a software like ActivityInfo, the said software is a part of the multiple ones composing the IS. To assure a sustainable use of ActivityInfo, we recommend you put on paper the IS model or your organization and the role ActivityInfo will play in it; it should ideally take into account all the IS components enumerated above. It will help you not only to make a better, more efficient use of the system, but it will also help you in the process of building your data structure model. The data structure that you will be building in ActivityInfo will comprise among other things databases, forms and form fields. It should be built always having in mind the IS model of your organization.
A database is a structured set of data held in a computer, especially one that is accessible in various ways; [Oxford Dictionaries, 2014]. Databases are used as the highest level of your data structure. It is at this level you can add partners, users and control their access level. Also note that timelocks can be put on entire databases, but also on specific forms. It is also when creating a database, that you will have the choice to make it country-specific or "global". While the "global" option will allow you to compile data associated with any geographical coordinates on earth, you will have less options to define lower administrative levels to these entries (like province, territory, governorate or communes for example).
Within ActivityInfo, Forms are the main components of the databases. A form is composed of one or multiple form fields and should also, within the database,be consistent with your information system. It usually reflects a meaningful part of your database (a task, a program, a project, an intervention in a specific country, etc.). Most importantly, it is at that level of your data structure that you and/or other users will perform data entry either directly on ActivityInfo, by mobile phone through ODK collect or on a paper form printed from ActivityInfo. They are the structure in which most users will see the data making it even more important to make them coherent.
Form fields are entities that can take different shapes: text entry, multi-text entry, quantity entry, checkboxes question, multiple choices question or barcode. They are what constitutes a form and they have a infinite potential usage to suit your needs. Form fields are added or deleted through the flexible form designer and they can also be hidden from users in case you don't want to use them for the time being without deleting them. You can also make form fields required for users to fill; a form cannot be submitted as long as all required form fields haven't been filled with an adequate entry. Form fields can also be automatically calculated; these type of form fields will not show up to users when entering data, but will be calculated automatically and show up in the "data-entry" tab once a form has been submitted. A last way to define a given form field is to add a relevance function to a form field. in this case, the user will be asked to define in which situation a particular question will be asked to a user. A simple example would be a first question asking if a person is a man or a woman and a second one asking if the woman is pregnant who would be asked only if the answer to the first question was woman.
A user can be defined as anyone signed up to ActivityInfo. A user account is associated with a unique e-mail address. A user who creates a new database can grant access rights to others users.
A partner is usually an organization (NGO, private company, gov. org., group of individuals, etc.) but can also be individuals. Partners are usually all the parties who will perform data entry in your database and of which you wish to keep track of. While partners should be added after creating a database, a partner called default will automatically appear in case no partners were added.
A site is a place where a particular event or activity is occuring or has occured [Oxford Dictionaries, 2015]. It translates in ActivityInfo as a type of data used to locate entries. A site can be used for numerous entries in the case many activities or events were recorded at a specific site. The information that can be assigned to a site consists of geographical coordinates and/or administrative levels. We strongly recommend the usage of geographical coordinates (and therefore devices equipped with a GPS) when defining a site since it is the most accurate way to define a site location.