Author: Dr Johanna Choumert Nkolo

Grasping the multiple dimensions of the development process is based on a fundamental need: high quality data. This year, EDI Global is celebrating our 20th Anniversary of generating data and evidence that makes a difference and changes lives.

I came to EDI Global, seven years ago, to conduct rigorous field-based research that would help shape policies. As an applied economist, I had spent years teaching and running sophisticated econometric models; but I wanted more time in the field and to study the raw material of economic models, that is data.

Survey methodology research is like a bottomless pit: you can invest hours and hours in it, constantly discovering new challenges and fascinating research questions. Applying my expertise in research methods, I have studied energy, natural resources, education, agriculture and more. Every new project presents field challenges for which we use our creativity and excellent knowledge of the literature.

In my journal article, New paradigms for household surveys in low- and middle-income countries, co-written with Pascale Phélinas (IRD / CERDI), we present recent methodological advances in the design and administration of household surveys. We explore four key dimensions of the survey process: choosing the sample design, selecting respondents, drafting the questionnaire, and administering the questionnaire.

Each one of these dimensions have greatly evolved over the past years thanks to:

  • The contribution of new satellite and computer technologies to sample selection when sampling frames are non-existent or unusable;
  • The use of tablets/phones for the administration of questionnaires;
  • The exploration of different interrogation variants using experimental economics methods (recall period, questionnaire administration methods, interrogation strategy, etc.);
  • The introduction of new themes related to changes in consumption patterns due to urbanisation and labour organisation.

Our work suggests that it is possible, using a targeted approach that focuses resources and efforts on a few key areas, to significantly improve the quality of survey data. In my next blog post, I will share my views on how electronic data collection, CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing), has changed the field and has become the gold standard for collecting data in the field.