We’re excited to announce that we’ve developed a field plug-in for SurveyCTO forms to launch phone calls via Twilio, a cloud communications platform used by millions of people around the world (learn more about field plug-ins here). This is part of our larger efforts to offer users more flexibility to adapt projects to alternative data collection methods, particularly to phone surveying, or computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI).
Read on to learn how Twilio might benefit your phone survey projects. We’ll also continue to expand SurveyCTO’s capabilities to meet evolving needs.
What advantages does using Twilio offer?
SurveyCTO can be used as a phone surveying solution thanks to the “phone-caller” field plug-in that launches the phone dialer application on Android/iOS devices. We’ve been steadily releasing updates for SurveyCTO Collect for Android that offer more robust phone survey features, enhanced security with app-based storage, and remote management and setup of enumerator devices.
We also recognize the importance of making it easier for users to connect SurveyCTO to other tools that offer complementary functionalities. Twilio is a cloud communications platform that allows software developers to add voice, video, and messaging capabilities to their web, desktop, and mobile applications. Here are some of the benefits of using Twilio for phone surveys:
- Phone number masking: Twilio offers full phone number masking in both directions to hide respondent phone numbers from enumerators and vice versa. (While the next version of SurveyCTO Collect will provide a mechanism to hide respondent phone numbers from enumerators, it won’t be able to control the caller ID displayed to respondents and hide enumerator phone numbers.)
- High-quality voice recordings: Call recordings with Twilio cover entire conversations and capture each side in an independent audio channel. They don’t get included with form data and therefore don’t have to be uploaded by enumerators. Recordings can also be enabled on any enumerator device, regardless of operating system or version. (SurveyCTO Collect does enable call recordings, however, they only work on Android versions 4.4 to 7 due to security restrictions on later versions.)
- Centralized billing: Instead of topping up enumerator devices, billing can be centralized with Twilio for more streamlined financial management.
Explore this overview to learn more about Twilio’s phone calling and voice features. It’s important to note that making calls via Twilio will be twice the cost because each call is treated as two calls: one call to the enumerator’s device and then another call to the respondent. There are opportunities for discounts through Twilio’s Impact Access Program.
How do I download the field plug-in?
You can find more information and the link to download the plug-in on this GitHub page. The plug-in is still in active development but it’s ready to use.
Can I pilot the plug-in for my project?
Absolutely! We’re still refining the plug-in, and your feedback will help us ensure that we’re developing something that our users will find valuable. For example, we’re exploring adding support to decrypt encrypted audio recordings. If you’re interested in piloting Twilio for your phone survey project and sharing your needs with us, we’d be happy to work with you. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are there more resources?
To learn more about how to use SurveyCTO for phone surveys, explore the CATI starter kit and watch this webinar recording for a helpful overview. If you’re interested in field plug-ins for other platforms, you can check out this plug-in created by the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) that enables calls and SMS messages to be launched using cloud telephony platform Exotel from within SurveyCTO forms (India-only for voice).
We’re also launching the Safe People + Data Initiative, with generous support from users and partners, to provide methodologies and resources for safer data collection, in response to new challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing need for safety-focused innovation.