FEATURE27 June 2016

Mobile measurement in Africa

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Features Impact Middle East and Africa Mobile

Conducting survey research in developing countries is often made difficult because of a lack of infrastructure. A team from TNS and RTI looked into whether SMS-based surveys could be used for representative research in sub-Saharan Africa. By Bronwen Morgan

Africa mobile_crop

In development communities, SMS research is currently used in a number of scenarios. The cost-effective approach – useful because it works on any phone and has the potential to reach formerly inaccessible populations – involves individual text (SMS) messages being sent to respondents’ mobile phones. If that person responds, they receive another question and, if they respond to that, they receive another, and so on.

It has been used with relative success to research existing defined populations – such as school headteachers and health workers reporting on school quality and medicine stocks, for example – for rapid evaluation, or for gaining insight from people on the ground during times of crisis.

But when it comes to population-based surveys – that is, surveys representative of an entire population – the approach is not well tested. Melissa Baker, regional director for public affairs research for Africa and the Middle East, alongside Dr Charles Lau, survey methodologist at RTI and Dr Ansie Lombaard ...