Collecting survey data via mobile phone in Southern Sudan


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We’re in the middle of an unusual data collection exercise, which we’ve called the Southern Sudan Experimental Phone Survey (SSEPS). To get a sense of how the survey works, see this photo essay. The work has been conducted in part with funds from the Poverty and Social Impact Analysis Multi-Donor Trust Fund.

In November, in conjunction with the Southern Sudan Centre for Census, Statistics and Evaluation, we delivered mobile phones to 1000 households in the 10 state capitals of Southern Sudan. Each month starting last December, Sudanese interviewers from a call center in Nairobi have phoned respondents on those phones to collect information on their economic situation, security, outlook, and other topics.

We’re still analyzing the data and it will still be several weeks before we have a public report based on the data. But to give a brief preview: one notable finding from the December round is the high levels of optimism. In the weeks leading up to the vote on independence that took place in January, 57 percent of our respondents said they believed the vote would lead to long-term peace between North and South Sudan (vs. 21 percent who said it would not, with the remainder not responding or indicating that they did not know.) Likewise, a striking 65 percent of respondents said they expected their living conditions to improve in the next 12 months, compared to just 6 percent who said they would worsen. Expectations are high among the citizens of the new nation that will be born this July.



Gabriel Demombynes

Manager of the Human Capital Project at the World Bank

olugbenga adesanya
March 08, 2011


March 08, 2011

Very exciting. I am looking forward to the report. It would be very helpful to understand the operational challenges that you encounter. Do participants verbally answer questions or punch in answers? I can imagine many different ways of extending this fabulous idea. Do participants keep the phones? Can they use them for other purposes? Excellent!!

T. George
March 08, 2011

Gabriel and team,

Fantastic and encouraging work. The value of mobile as an asset in the hands of BOP users appears to be an interlocked puzzle. One of the keys to unlocking value might lie in enabling counter information flows from the base of the pyramid to markets/governments/institutions. We've attempted to highlight the potential for agriculture in an upcoming Bank publication (ICT in Agriculture Sourcebook, 2011; Chapter 11 on ICTs and traceability for smallholders).

I'd be very interested in seeing analysis and lessons learned from your survey on the use of the channel as a mechanism for information pull.



Hapana Fikiry
March 08, 2011

A very good idea and expriment. Hope we can try this method in other countries i.e. Mozambique and Zimbabwe. This instrument should be used not only for information pull - collection of data but also for supplying information to the people participating in the study.
Gabriel and his team should be complimented for this work.

March 08, 2011

This is an exciting project and valuable information that can be shared. Communication is a major factor in starting economic development specifically when information sharing can happen at such a high response rate.
I am looking forward to the report.
It would be interesting to run this type of experiment in other countries to see if you get such a high response rate. I believe it would be.
This opens up a whole new sector for marketing and creating awareness campaigns for health, environment etc

olugbenga adesanya
March 09, 2011

I am interested in reading the report.

Ibrahim Adam
March 13, 2011

"Likewise, a striking 65 percent of respondents said they expected their living conditions to improve in the next 12 months...Expectations are high among the citizens of the new nation that will be born this July."

I wish southern Sudanese and their new nation well.

But the widespread expectations of a 180 degree improvement now that south Sudan has ‘decided’ to form a new nation just only shows how voter education (funded largely by USAID implementing partners) failed dismally in the southern referendum.

Gabriel: if they had been truly informed about the choices, Southern Sudanese wouldn't believe that's it going to start suddenly raining cows just because they lodged an independence vote! Ultimately, the international community couldn't have cared less anyhow: led by the USA, it just wanted a soft-landing for the separation of south Sudan at all costs.

So, Gabriel, don’t get carried away (e.g. “striking”) just yet. Let's see if those high expectations are around by the end of the year. I doubt it strongly: The reality of southern Sudan independence will have long been de-mystified by then.

Olusegun Peters
March 21, 2011

Congratulations Gabriel et al. Your blog is interesting because it demonstrates the increasing success resulting from deployment of ICT contextually in Africa. A former project colleague who worked on the back end of the voter registration exercise in Nigeria sent me this AlJazeera YouTube video clip showing how his team "contextualized" existing technology to obtain a successful voter registration outcome:

More intriguing however is the Election Commission's plan to facilitate transparency in reporting election results by deploying "an innovative home grown vote collation system using SMS. The idea being that the returning officers send a template SMS with results which will be centrally collated - the SMS is immediately echoed to observers at the polling unit who (could) immediately dispute the returns".

We'll have to wait for the outcome but certainly utilizing capacity and technology "in place", even the humble cell phone, holds promise for enabling more transparent governance and accountability practices in Africa.

June 11, 2011

I am planning to conduct a study on disability in South Sudan. On exploring the use of cellphones to collect data, I stubbled across your page. I would really like to learn more. The study will commence in July-August. Can we meet up on Skype to have a discussion. Please contact me. Best regards Nafisa

auto diagnostic tool
February 07, 2012

I have an idea, I hope we can try this approach in other African countries.The instrument should be used not only for the collection of information data, also provide information for participants in the research.