Mobile the “gateway” to data in Africa

Mobile phones are the “gateway” to accessing widespread and reliable data across Africa, according to the president of mobile survey tool GeoPoll.

In an interview with HumanIPO, Steve Gutterman, president of GeoPoll, said the reach of mobile phones in rural Africa as well as urban locations makes mobile the only way to collect data from across the full spectrum of society.

Combined with the low cost of mobile communications relative to other forms of contact, Gutterman said mobile is the most efficient tool for gathering data.

“Across the continent, even in very remote and hard to reach places, the mobile phone is the one communication constant. Amazingly, more people in the world have mobile phones than access to clean water or electricity,” Gutterman told HumanIPO.

“And it’s relatively inexpensive to incentivise a respondent to take a short survey, especially when compared to the cost of conducting face-to-face surveys in parts of the world without internet.

“Quite simply, the mobile phone is the gateway to most widespread and accurate data in Africa.”

According to Gutterman, mobile research has the potential to unlock African economies and fuel growth, by providing businesses and organisations with much needed data on the markets they are active in or entering.

“The African continent contains some of the most rapidly growing economies on the planet, and we’re currently seeing an explosion of growth and economic development. There is so much potential for business here, but often companies don’t have access to basic data about the markets they’re trying to access,” said Gutterman.

“In addition, aid organisations, governments, and NGOs are spending billions of dollars on monitoring and evaluation for their programs, but still aren’t accessing the data they need

“Mobile research represents a way these organisations can identify the problems they’re trying to solve, and connect with populations in a meaningful way.”

GeoPoll surveys can be accessed on feature phones as well smartphones, and make use of SMS, voice and internet; making the service suitable for use in a full range of environments.

“We reach all mobile phone users, not just smartphone users. In addition, there’s no cost to participation; responding to our surveys is free. GeoPoll’s survey methodology works across several different channels: text messaging, voice communications, and the web,” said Gutterman.

“Our use of non-smart phones to conduct surveys is exactly what makes our methodology so unique and effective. The reach of mobile phones is increasingly widespread, across income levels.”

GeoPoll currently has 100 million users across 20 countries globally, and can gather data from any country in the world except North Korea, with the company targeting 500 million users by the end of 2014.

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