Posted 23 March, 2015 by Tom Walker

Research finds: Are mobile surveys just reaching urban elites?

The engine room has been collecting and summarizing research on ‘what works’ in projects that use technology to solve complex problems. We’re sharing research that we find useful on our blog in the hope that a wider range of people can use it to inform their work.

Background: The Center for Global Development and the World Bank (Tiago Peixoto, Jon Mellon, and Steve Davenport) have been testing whether mobile phone surveys can reliably produce nationally representative samples across different countries. Here’s a summary of their blogpost on the results (emphasis added):

  • “Are mobile surveys just reaching the urban elite and failing to reach poor people? There have been few studies that have rigorously grappled with this completely legitimate question.
  • We focused on four poor countries (Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe) that have very different levels of mobile phone penetration. We deliberately picked countries where we thought it might work and where it probably wouldn’t.
  • The survey performed well at reaching poor inhabitants. We used several asset ownership questions as proxies for respondents’ income level. In Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, our samples mirrored the underlying population in terms of these measures. While less precise in Ethiopia and Mozambique, they were still quite close. This gives us comfort that we were reaching the bottom of the pyramid, in contrast to common criticisms and truthfully, what we expected to find.
  • Capturing rural women was a consistent challenge, especially in Afghanistan and Ethiopia. Some of this was due to cultural norms as well as mobile phone ownership and usage patterns
  • These tools may be a promising way to promote representative engagement with citizens in many places. Not to mention that they are extremely cheap (roughly $10-15k per country).”

The project now is planning to expand to other countries, including some additional ‘tough places’, and test new methods of reaching under-represented groups.

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[…] would people hear about the app to download it? This technology divide may be more clear at the international level, but avoid taking tech for granted […]

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