Blog entry originally posted in June 2014 on the Humanitarian Innovation Fund website.
This month, our blog provides the perspective from the people we call every month in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We realize that we need to understand to what extent our mVAM voice surveys prove to be a user friendly way of collecting data. Jean-Marie and Mireille, our operators in Goma, with Jean-Martin in tow, went to Mugunga 3 camp to obtain feedback from the respondents.
Respondents told us that that taking phone calls is a better experience than participating in a face-to-face surveys involving enumerators. People can be kept waiting for a long time when a face-to-face survey takes place, which limits their ability to work to earn money that day. Face-to-face interviews also involve some stress, as people fear that if they are not present in the camp, they might be removed from distribution list and lose their entitlement to assistance. With phone surveys, people are able take the survey where they are.
People are now used to phone surveys (and to the phone manner of Mireille and Jean-Marie!). At the start of the calls in January, our phone calls took an average of 10 minutes. In May, average call duration has dropped to 4 to 6 minutes. Considering this progress, we think that the time is now right to begin some testing of our interactive voice response (IVR) calls. IVR calls are automated phone calls that people respond to by pressing a key on their phone’s touchpad. In June, we will try calling some of our respondents with the IVR system and assessing whether they are able to communicate with us using that channel. We think IVR might help us place calls after 5PM or during weekends, which would be helpful for some of our respondents. We can also focus our live calls on people who might need more assistance in order to reply to our questions, such as the elderly.
The respondents in Mugunga 3 camp also emphasize that owning a phone has changed their lives. For many people, this was the first time in their life they have owned a mobile phone. The airtime credit incentives they receive from WFP allows them call home, for a few minutes, and be in touch with their families and enquire about conditions in their hometowns. They are also able to call their families to ask for help. While IDP’s relatives commonly send food parcels to Mugunga 3, others send mobile money m-pesa transfers to the phones WFP provided. The objective of our project was to help WFP understand how to use mobile phones to better communicate with the IDPs of Mugunga3. It seems that it has, to some extent, also made life a little easier for those we work with.