IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Asking What the People Want: Using Mobile Phone Surveys to Identify Citizen Priorities - Working Paper 418


  • Benjamin Leo
  • Robert Morello


Using an experimental design, we assess the feasibility of interactive voice recognition (IVR) surveys for gauging citizens’ development priorities. Our project focuses on four low-income countries (Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe), which exhibit significant differences in mobile penetration rates and linguistic fractionalization. In this paper, we consider sensitivities of using a single mobile phone-based survey instrument to solicit citizens’ development priorities for a host of actors operating within the country. We analyze whether people’s stated priorities change based on the specified executing actor, timeframe, or question format. A separate Center for Global Development (CGD) working paper provides detailed analysis on a range of methodological issues, including: survey design, implementation, sample weighting, response incentives, and national representativeness. We find that mobile phone-based approaches may be an effective tool for gathering information about citizen priorities. In terms of the specific research questions, we find that people’s priorities rarely change based on the specified actor (e.g., national government or external partners). There also is only a modest timeframe effect on citizens’ revealed concerns, which is limited to less frequently cited development themes and priorities. Lastly, it appears that a closed-ended question format may adequately capture citizen’s priorities compared to open-ended formats. Although, this finding is preliminary and should be tested further due to several methodological challenges in this study. Overall, these findings suggest that a single survey may be an appropriate tool for multiple development actors’ usage – such as bilateral donors, multilateral agencies, and the national government – across multiple contexts.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin Leo & Robert Morello, 2015. "Asking What the People Want: Using Mobile Phone Surveys to Identify Citizen Priorities - Working Paper 418," Working Papers 418, Center for Global Development.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:418

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item


    mobile phone surveys; mobile phones; priority setting; zimbabwe; ethiopia; mozambique; afghanistan;

    JEL classification:

    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O55 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Africa
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • F35 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Aid

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:418. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Publications Manager). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.