The advent of cheap smartphones in rural areas across the globe presents an opportunity to change the mode with which researchers engage hard-to-reach populations. In particular, smartphones allow researchers to connect with respondents more frequently than standard household surveys, opening a new window into important short-term variability in key measures of household and community wellbeing. In this paper, we present early results from a pilot study in rural Bangladesh using a ‘microtasks for micropayments’ model to collect a range of community and household living standards data using Android smartphones. We find that more frequent task repetition with shorter recall periods leads to more inclusive reporting, improved capture of intra-seasonal variability, and earlier signals of events such as illness. Payments in the form of mobile talk time and data provide a positive development externality in the form of expanded access to mobile internet and social networks. Taken to scale, programs such as this have potential to transform data collection in rural areas, providing near-real-time windows into the development of markets, the spread of illnesses, or the diffusion of ideas and innovations.
Bell, Andrew R.; Ward, Patrick S.; Killilea, Mary E.; and Tamal, Md. Ehsanul Haque. 2016. Real-time social data collection in rural Bangladesh via a ‘Microtasks for Micropayments’ platform on Android smartphones. PLoS ONE 11(11): e0165924. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0165924
This work was supported by the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), with generous funding provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.