A woman in India makes her daily trek to get clean drinking water for her family. Halfway there, her phone buzzes and she stops in the shade to check her mobile phone. She has received a survey that is asking her a series of questions about her living conditions and daily habits. Within a few minutes, she has responded, returning to her journey for water.

Thanks to the high adoption of cell phones in developing countries, across all socio-economic classes, this is a reality for more people than ever before. Today, there are more cell phones in Asia and Africa than toilets, according to BluePlanetNetwork. What this means for the survey world is revolutionary; for business and for global change.

These new opportunities allow partnerships like our recent collaboration with IST Research. We were able to collect 248 responses within four days for a Teacher Survey in Afghanistan. We used Interactive Voice Response (IVR) for these surveys. IVR is a voice-based survey used to reach marginalized populations with low literacy rates.

We asked them general demographics questions, finding that 68% speak Dari and 75% are male. We also asked them questions about their living conditions, learning that over half of the teachers lived within five KM from the school, but 22% still lived over 16 KM away. Then we asked about their incomes, discovering that 66% of teachers receive their paycheck by hand, and almost 75% would prefer to receive them through their mobile phones.

Mobile-based surveys, whether SMS or IVR, provide real-time data for a wider range of demographics. They offer faster results than traditional survey styles and a wider sample size than web-based survey styles.

The surveys collected in Afghanistan will provide data that is generally hard to find and will provide quicker insights which allow for short-term action.

When it comes right down to it though, it’s not about the data, the survey responses or the opportunities that are uncovered. What it all comes down to are the people. The chance to give them something that many take for granted—a voice—and a chance to use that voice to advocate for change. Of course, the data is nothing to ignore, but the ability to revolutionize the way that data is collected in order use to make the world a better place is worth so much more.

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GeoPoll is changing the way data is collected. GeoPoll connects researchers to mobile phone users in just about every country in the world, reaching people from dense urban areas to remote villages. GeoPoll’s user base and global reach allows you to identify, target and understand the world faster and more accurately than ever before.