Building the evidence base for remote data collection in lowand middle-income countries: Comparing reliability and accuracy across survey modalities

Abigail R. Greenleaf, Dustin G. Gibson, Christelle Khattar, Alain B. Labrique, George W. Pariyo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Given the growing interest in mobile data collection due to the proliferation of mobile phone ownership and network coverage in low-And middle-income countries (LMICs), we synthesized the evidence comparing estimates of health outcomes from multiple modes of data collection. In particular, we reviewed studies that compared a mode of remote data collection with at least one other mode of data collection to identify mode effects and areas for further research. Objective: The study systematically reviewed and summarized the findings from articles and reports that compare a mode of remote data collection to at least one other mode. The aim of this synthesis was to assess the reliability and accuracy of results. Methods: Seven online databases were systematically searched for primary and grey literature pertaining to remote data collection in LMICs. Remote data collection included interactive voice response (IVR), computer-Assisted telephone interviews (CATI), short message service (SMS), self-Administered questionnaires (SAQ), and Web surveys. Two authors of this study reviewed the abstracts to identify articles which met the primary inclusion criteria. These criteria required that the survey collected the data from the respondent via mobile phone or landline. Articles that met the primary screening criteria were read in full and were screened using secondary inclusion criteria. The four secondary inclusion criteria were that two or more modes of data collection were compared, at least one mode of data collection in the study was a mobile phone survey, the study had to be conducted in a LMIC, and finally, the study should include a health component. Results: Of the 11,568 articles screened, 10 articles were included in this study. Seven distinct modes of remote data collection were identified: CATI, SMS (singular sitting and modular design), IVR, SAQ, and Web surveys (mobile phone and personal computer). CATI was the most frequent remote mode (n=5 articles). Of the three in-person modes (face-To-face [FTF], in-person SAQ, and in-person IVR), FTF was the most common (n=11) mode. The 10 articles made 25 mode comparisons, of which 12 comparisons were from a single article. Six of the 10 articles included sensitive questions. Conclusions: This literature review summarizes the existing research about remote data collection in LMICs. Due to both heterogeneity of outcomes and the limited number of comparisons, this literature review is best positioned to present the current evidence and knowledge gaps rather than attempt to draw conclusions. In order to advance the field of remote data collection, studies that employ standardized sampling methodologies and study designs are necessary to evaluate the potential for differences by survey modality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere140
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017


  • Africa south of the sahara
  • Cell phones
  • Data collection methods
  • Developing countries
  • Health surveys
  • Humans
  • Interviews as topic
  • Mhealth
  • Reproducibility of results
  • Research design
  • Surveys and questionnaires
  • Text messaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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