Hey, psst, want some remote mobile data collection?

Introducing the mVAM toolkit

As the mVAM remote data collection project has matured, we’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t in a variety of field settings. Our experience has been documented in successive blog entries over the past two years.

We’ve now reached the stage where a critical mass of learning exists that could be of use for a lot of people. So we’ve created the mVAM toolkit; a resource intended for analysts like us would like to implement surveys through call centers or through SMS and interactive voice response (IVR). We’re delighted to share the tools that we have used in the field, as well as other practical advice about how to set up remote data collection.  It features guidance notes, spreadsheets and video clips.

The toolkit is available on an open-access basis at the VAM Resource Center, where much more food security analysis guidance is available. As of June 2015, the toolkit includes presentations on what mVAM is about and the free and open-source tools that can be used to conduct SMS and IVR surveys. There are also sample questionnaires and scripts for operators. Our plans are to continue adding to the toolkit on a regular basis, so keep an eye out for updates.

Getting started in Chad and Niger

Over the past few months, WFP teams in Chad and Niger have begun using voice calls to collect food security data in refugee communities. In Niger, the activity targets 300 refugees from Mali living in camps.  Calls were implemented by a Nigerien start-up company based in Niamey; working with a private company should allow WFP to scale up data collection in the future. Chad conducted its first data collection round in May 2015, targeting 520 refugee camp residents in the east. In Chad, students from the University of Ndjamena placed the calls.

In both cases, we chose to implement surveys in camps where cell phone ownership was above 60%, and called people who already owned phones. We were pleased see very high response rates, which stood at 90% in both countries. As the figure below shows, our estimates of food consumption are statistically identical regardless of whether we use traditional face- to-face data collection or voice calls. These results confirm what we have been seeing in other settings: voice calls produce reliable estimates for many widely used food security indicators. We see no evidence of people ‘gaming’ phone calls more or less frequently than when they respond to traditional surveys. The challenge we face is access to cell phones: in a setting where too few people own phones, our survey will miss large segments of the population.


Food consumption groups: face-to-face and mVAM survey results

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