A new tool in the toolbox: using mobile text for food security surveys in a conflict setting

This blog post from  Jean-Martin Bauer, Koffi Akakpo, Marie Enlund and Silvia Passeri for Humanitarian Practice Network (HPN) analyses the results of a household food security assessment conducted for the World Food Program (WFP) using mobile text to gather the data for the survey.  Conducted in North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo at a time of active conflict and large scale displacement the results demonstrate the viability of using mobile data collection but only when used with more traditional forms of surveys due to the lack of access to mobile phones of up to 50% of the households in the area.


"WFP conducted three monthly mobile text survey rounds in July–September 2013 in North Kivu, and compared the results with a face-to-face emergency food security assessment implemented in March and April 2013 in the same area. The approach allows the comparison of data quality, cost and timeliness for both survey types.

WFP partnered with GeoPoll, a US-based polling company, to implement the mobile text survey rounds. GeoPoll maintains a roll of 7.9 million mobile phone subscribers in the DRC. The 500,000 subscribers in GeoPoll's database that were identified as living in North Kivu constituted the sampling frame for the field test. Each month, some 1,500 randomly selected respondents received questionnaires by text message. In addition to an identifier question on displacement, either the food consumption score (FCS) (ten questions) or the reduced coping strategies index (rCSI) (five questions) was collected. Responding to the mobile text survey was free of charge. The March–April 2013 face-to-face assessment collected the same indicators, on a sample of 2,713 households." (Bauer, Akakpo, Enlund, & Passeri)


  • How did we evaluate the performance of mobile text surveys?
  • Data quality: why did the rCSI perform better than the FCS?
  • Cost and timeliness
  • Discussion: opportunities and trade-offs
  • Conclusion: towards mixed-mode data collection systems


Bauer, J., Akakpo, K., Enlund, M., & Passeri, S.  A new tool in the toolbox using mobile text for food security surveys in a conflict setting. Retrieved , from http://www.odihpn.org/the-humanitarian-space/news/announcements/blog-art...