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Challenges and opportunities of mobile phone-based data collection : evidence from South Sudan

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  • Demombynes, Gabriel
  • Gubbins, Paul
  • Romeo, Alessandro

Abstract

The proliferation of mobile phones in developing countries has generated a wave of interest in collecting high-frequency socioeconomic surveys using this technology. This paper considers lessons from one such survey effort in a difficult environment -- the South Sudan Experimental Phone Survey, which gathered data on living conditions, access to services, and citizen attitudes via monthly interviews by phones provided to respondents. Non-response, particularly in later rounds of the survey, was a substantial problem, largely due to erratic functioning of the mobile network. However, selection due to non-response does not appear to have markedly affected survey results. Response rates were much higher for respondents who owned their own phones. Both compensation provided to respondents in the form of airtime and the type of phone (solar-charged or traditional) were varied experimentally. The type of phone was uncorrelated with response rates and, contrary to expectation, attrition was slightly higher for those receiving the higher level of compensation. The South Sudan Experimental Phone Survey experience suggests that mobile phones can be a viable means of data collection for some purposes, that calling people on their own phones is preferred to handing out phones, and that careful attention should be given to the potential for selective non-response.

Suggested Citation

  • Demombynes, Gabriel & Gubbins, Paul & Romeo, Alessandro, 2013. "Challenges and opportunities of mobile phone-based data collection : evidence from South Sudan," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6321, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6321
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Brian Dillon, 2012. "Using mobile phones to collect panel data in developing countries," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(4), pages 518-527, May.
    2. Croke, Kevin & Dabalen, Andrew & Demombynes, Gabriel & Giugale, Marcelo & Hoogeveen, Johannes, 2012. "Collecting high frequency panel data in Africa using mobile phone interviews," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6097, The World Bank.
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    1. World Bank, "undated". "Africa's Pulse, October 2013 : An Analysis of Issues Shaping Africa's Economic Future," World Bank Other Operational Studies 20237, The World Bank.
    2. Andrew Dabalen & Alvin Etang & Johannes Hoogeveen & Elvis Mushi & Youdi Schipper & Johannes von Engelhardt, 2016. "Mobile Phone Panel Surveys in Developing Countries," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 24595, June.
    3. Johanna Choumert-Nkolo & Pascale Phelinas, 2018. "New paradigms for household surveys in low and middle income countries [Nouveaux paradigmes d'élaboration des enquêtes ménages dans les pays du Sud]," Working Papers halshs-01888609, HAL.

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    Keywords

    E-Business; ICT Policy and Strategies; Social Analysis; Housing&Human Habitats; Social Accountability;
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