You are currently viewing Resources for transitioning projects to telephone surveying (CATI)

Updated on July 7, 2020.

As the impact of COVID-19 grows, we here at Dobility are committed to making sure that SurveyCTO users can adapt their fieldwork from in-person data collection to alternative methods, such as computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI), and still deliver on their projects.

In service of this commitment, we’re pleased to offer a CATI starter kit that demonstrates how SurveyCTO can support your telephone surveying needs, as well as share best practices and capacity-building resources from global leaders in digital data collection and research. Read on to learn more, and watch the recordings of our webinars on transitioning projects to telephone interviewing and using SurveyCTO plug-ins for phone surveys. Make sure to check this page regularly as we’ll be updating it on an ongoing basis.

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Using the CATI starter kit   

SurveyCTO’s CATI starter kit offers an automated and scalable approach to using SurveyCTO as a CATI solution on both mobile devices and web forms. It includes guidance on the following: 

  • Base requirements, such as contact details, hardware, and third party services.
  • Platform options, including Android, iOS, and web forms.
  • Adapting your instruments and adding your questions into SurveyCTO CATI templates.
  • Training your team remotely.
  • Collecting high quality data.
  • Monitoring your project’s progress with sample Google Sheets dashboards and other external tools.
  • Setting up automatically generated calendar events to organize your work via Zapier and other ways of augmenting your CATI system.

It also offers a full working sample for both basic and advanced scenarios with the following components:

  • Workflow incorporating case management, publishing form data into server datasets, and pre-loading to organize the process of assigning cases to enumerators and contacting respondents, while automatically discontinuing contact attempts when appropriate.
  • The advanced sample allows for capturing multiple phone numbers for respondents, the best number to use, and the numbers not to use, and offers more flexibility for rescheduling calls. 
  • Sample form and records to populate the cases dataset.
  • “Phone-call” field plug-in that launches the phone dialer application on Android devices and populates it with a phone number, ready to be called by the user. 
  • “Launch-sms” field plug-in that launches the SMS application on Android devices and populates it with a phone number and message, ready to be sent by the user

We’ll be updating this starter kit to make it more robust. To receive notifications about improvements, please follow the instructions in the Support Center guide on using the starter kit. You can also watch this video which presents an overview of the SurveyCTO platform and the CATI starter kit.

Additional SurveyCTO resources

We’ve released a software update that considerably expands platform flexibility and options for securely sharing data. This includes the freedom to use field plug-ins that can fully control the appearance and functionality of questions in survey forms, including the “phone-call” plug-in and “launch-sms” plug-in described above. We’ve also introduced improvements to SurveyCTO Collect, including robust features for phone surveys, enhanced security, quick setups, and remote device management. We’ll continue to build upon these functionalities to create more resources that meet evolving needs.

Resources from leaders in the field

Global leaders in digital data collection and research are regularly developing invaluable resources and guides on how to transition fieldwork from in-person to phone surveying, covering issues such as reconceptualizing and shortening survey forms, retraining staff, adapting project management, and monitoring for data quality. Here’s a list of resources that we’ll continue to update:

Need help?

If you’re a SurveyCTO user and need help with CATI or any other issue, our support team is available 24×7. Go to the Support Center and click on the link to “Submit a support request.” No question is too small.

Chris Robert


Chris is the founder of SurveyCTO. He now serves as Director and Founder Emeritus, supporting Dobility in a variety of part-time capacities. Over the course of Dobility’s first 10 years, he held several positions, including CEO, CTO, and Head of Product.

Before founding Dobility, he was involved in a long-term project to evaluate the impacts of microfinance in South India; developed online curriculum for a program to promote the use of evidence in policy-making in Pakistan and India; and taught statistics and policy analysis at the Harvard Kennedy School. Before that, he co-founded and helped grow an internet technology consultancy and led technology efforts for the top provider of software and hardware for multi-user bulletin board systems (the online systems most prominent before the Internet).