The Safe People + Data Initiative

Much of the world’s most important data has traditionally come from direct observation and in-person interviews. At a time when that data is needed more than ever to inform policy and programs, the methods used to collect it have been suddenly rendered less safe. The Safe People + Data Initiative focuses on helping to ensure that data can continue being collected — safely.

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What is the Safe People + Data Initiative?

This initiative is led by Dobility, the makers of SurveyCTO, with generous support from its many partners and users on the ground in over 165 countries. It provides 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. Reflecting the diverse needs of global practitioners who are exploring how to continue their work, the initiative offers tools and insights to support safer methods of in-person data collection as well as alternative and complementary methods of reducing in-person interactions and collecting data remotely.

For more information on how Dobility is responding to COVID-19 and helping projects adapt, read its full response here.

What are the goals?

  1. Develop and support new, safer methods of collecting data to inform evidence-based policy and practice, by smartly adapting pre-pandemic tools and methods and developing new, agile, and mixed-method approaches.
  2. Develop approaches to protect data security and quality as collection methods rapidly evolve.
  3. Provide a vehicle for discussion, mutual learning, and collaboration about safe data collection (e.g., resources, best practices, technology solutions).
  4. Increase the visibility of changing technical and safety needs among those collecting data.

What are ways to get involved?

This initiative is a community effort that arose organically as the SurveyCTO community grappled with new challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Users have been generously sharing resources and best practices, results from piloting methods, and new technologies. The Safe People + Data Initiative serves as a means to build on these efforts and make them as accessible as possible. Here are some ways to get involved:

  • Share expertise: Author or co-author resources, articles, and guides. Lead topical discussions via webinars, virtual panels, and interviews.
  • Engage regularly: Participate in events and webinars. Contribute feedback and insights to improve the initiative and its offerings. Join the mailing list for updates on new resources and events.
  • Develop new tools: Pilot new methods and share results. Partner with SurveyCTO for a technical solution or integration.
Want to get in touch? Reach out at safepeople@surveycto.com.

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De­central­izing data collection operations

Introduction

Lock-downs, widespread in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, have forced projects to quickly adapt to an extreme degree of decentralization and remote operation, as well as to shift to alternative methods. Fortunately, even in-person operations can be decentralized in order to systematically reduce the need for travel and in-person interactions. These approaches to decentralization can also be applied to remote data collection methods.

Overview of methods

Computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI): Phone surveys, also known as CATI, offer interviewer-mediated research, where enumerators play a critical role in ensuring respondent survey comprehension and completion. CATI can be deployed rapidly, implemented at lower costs than in-person surveys, and capture both qualitative and quantitative data. Although CATI necessitates that respondents have access to mobile phones, it facilitates the collection of data from respondents with low levels of literacy.

Decentralized computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI): CAPI is an in-person interviewing technique in which enumerators use tablets, smartphones, or laptop computers to move through interviews and record responses. Decentralized CAPI can overcome traditional processes of travel and in-person training via remote recruiting, onboarding, training, and supervisor accompaniment.

Computer-assisted web interviewing (CAWI): As a self-enumeration method, CAWI, also known as web or online surveys, can be administered widely, quickly, and inexpensively. CAWI is less disruptive for respondents than CATI and can capture more data than SMS surveys. It can also better facilitate the participation of respondents who are geographically inaccessible or unavailable for in-person interviews. Respondents must be literate and have access to internet-connected smartphones, tablets, or laptop computers.

SMS surveys: SMS surveys facilitate the collection of data from respondents via messaging on mobile phones and can be administered widely, quickly, and inexpensively. They are most effective for short surveys with straightforward questions. Respondents must have mobile phones, phone service, and high literacy levels.

Resources on decentralizing data collection operations

Decentralized operations can reduce the need for travel and in-person interactions via remote recruiting, onboarding, training, and supervision. The following resources offer guidance on these approaches to safer data collection and examples of how global researchers are applying them.

Phone surveys (CATI)

Phone surveys, also known as computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI), offer interviewer-mediated research, where enumerators play a critical role in ensuring respondent survey comprehension and completion. Tools for conducting phone surveys organize the process of capturing respondent phone numbers, scheduling calls, and recording contact attempt details. The following resources provide guidance on how to use SurveyCTO for safely administering phone surveys, customizing forms and functionalities with field plug-ins, requesting consent, and remotely training enumerators. Additional resources from global leaders in the field offer insights on best practices for conducting phone surveys and transitioning from in-person interviewing.

De­central­ized in-person surveys (CAPI)

In-person observations and interviews, also known as computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI), will continue to be vital for collecting data from remote settings with limited literacy, connectivity, and administrative data. Decentralized operations can reduce the need for travel and in-person interactions via remote recruiting, project setup, training, and supervision. The following resources offer guidance on these methods of safer in-person surveys and examples of how global researchers are applying them.

Web surveys (CAWI)

Web surveys, also known as computer-assisted web interviewing (CAWI), are shared directly with respondents and not administered by enumerators. If respondents are literate and have internet access, web surveys can better facilitate the participation of those who are geographically inaccessible or unavailable for in-person interviews. Explore these resources for helpful guidance on designing robust web surveys, tracking respondents, and boosting completion rates with SurveyCTO.

SMS surveys

SMS messaging can be used to administer surveys widely, quickly, and inexpensively. It can also complement other survey methods by being used to send messages with requests for informed consent for phone surveys, web survey links, and prompts to facilitate participation. SMS messaging can also be used to send important information based on captured responses, including assessment details, appointment reminders, and transaction receipts. Explore these resources to learn more about how to use SMS messaging for safer data collection with SurveyCTO and other technology platforms.

  • Learn how to request informed consent via SMS messaging for phone surveys using SurveyCTO.
  • Check out RapidPro, an open source software and UNICEF’s common platform for connecting directly with a mobile phone user via SMS, voice, and social media.
  • Explore Zapier’s integration with Textit, a platform for automating conversations over SMS, messaging, bots, and phone calls.

Mixed methods of data collection

In-person and remote data collection methods can be combined for complementary approaches. Initial interviews can be conducted via computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) and follow up surveys can be conducted over the phone via computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI), or vice-versa. Web surveys, also known as computer-assisted web interviewing (CAWI), and phone surveys can also be combined, with web surveys being sent out first, followed by calls to either conduct the survey over the phone, or encourage web survey completion. For CATI applications with call center setups, enumerators can record submissions in web surveys, and respondents can be sent the survey links via email and text messages. Browse these resources to learn more about using mixed methods with SurveyCTO and other technology platforms.

Initiative highlights

Learn how people and projects across the world are successfully developing and deploying safer data collection methods to inform policy and implement projects.

IPA RECOVR phone survey

IPA'S RECOVR survey

Discover 7 ways to conduct a COVID-19 phone survey like IPA.

Protecting the Essential Workers of the Data Supply Chain

IDinsight's call to action

Read this call to action to protect essential workers of the data supply chain.

CERP-use-case

Measuring trust in Pakistan

Explore how The Centre for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP) conducts phone surveys to measure the impact of citizen trust on fighting COVID-19.

twilio plug-in

Twilio-powered phone surveys

Connect your SurveyCTO forms to launch phone surveys via Twilio for phone number masking, high-quality recordings, and more.

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Determining COVID-19’s impact on rural residents

Learn how Udyogini conducted a series of phone surveys to better understand COVID-19’s impact in five Indian states.

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