Effective health planning requires good quality data, but many health facilities lack the ability to provide this. Health questions often have to be answered within specific research studies. Microcomputers are now generally recommended and used by researchers for data analysis at the end of projects. The article reviews the use of microcomputer based management of data collection during a study. A selection of pojects are described, all of which have used microcomputers in a decentralised fachio, closer to the point of data collection. The main advantages of this approach are a significant reduction in error rates, and the ability to produce data quickly.