Author: Johanna Choumert Nkolo

Last month was the CLOSER 2022 Conference Preparing for the future III – tackling key challenges facing longitudinal population studies in a post-COVID world. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the need for remote surveys. Researchers and managers of longitudinal studies were thus invited to present posters and papers on five important topics:

  • The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on longitudinal populations studies;
  • Data linkages;
  • Influencing policy;
  • New forms of data collection; and,
  • Participant and public engagement.

Slides and videos of the talks can be found here

My two presentations were about ‘new forms of data collection’, one poster presentation about phone surveys with a focus on remote training of interviewers and remote quality control activities; and one talk about the practical implementation of SMS surveys in low and middleincome countries. In my session, Maria De Los Angeles Molina from Young Lives gave a particularly interesting talk about remotely collecting GPS coordinates. She presented their pilot study that aimed at assessing the feasibility of using an online survey to collect GPS coordinates of respondents in the four Young Lives countries, Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam. In her presentation, she discussed the opportunities and challenges identified from this pilot. The main take-home message is that it is possible to collect reliable location information remotely. Obviously, the digital divide and the unequal access to digital devices are significant limitations to remotely collecting GPS information from survey participants.

A respondent completing an SMS survey in Tanzania

For EDI Global, these topics are of particular importance. When the pandemic started in March 2020, we took the decision to suspend all in-person fieldwork projects. This meant a shift from in-person surveys to remote surveys, leveraging our previous experience of both phone and SMS surveys to ensure that we could continue to generate evidence. Our research team has written a number of blog posts on the potential and on the implementation of phone surveys [1] [2] [3] and SMS surveys [1] [2] [3]. Even when the pandemic is behind all of us, remote data collection will remain a useful and powerful tool – especially in the context of longitudinal populations studies and impact evaluations.

Finally, I want to say a huge thank you to the conference organizers and session moderators. This conference is an amazing forum to discuss about the practical implementation of longitudinal studies and experiences from different countries. I’m looking forward to the next one!