COVID-19 has ground many surveys to a halt. Although COVID-19 is less prevalent in low- and middle-income countries (for now, at least), researchers have suspended face-to-face surveys to prevent the spread of the pandemic. The rapid and devastating spread of COVID-19 suggests that face-to-face surveys will not be possible for months to come. Researchers now wonder: Is it possible to collect survey data in the meantime? And how?
Surveys During COVID-19 Are Possible with Mobile
Fortunately, researchers can turn to mobile surveys during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mobile surveys are automated, inexpensive, and fast. There are three main modes to consider:
- Short message service (SMS) that use text messaging;
- Interactive voice response (IVR) or automated voice surveys;
SMS and IVR are feasible on almost every device worldwide, and rates of phone access in many low- and middle-income countries exceed 80 percent.
Another option is computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI), which uses a live interviewer. As of late March 2020, the viability of CATI during COVID-19 is unclear. Many CATI call centers have shut down already, but some vendors are setting up virtual call centers. Due to the uncertainty about CATI, we focus on SMS and IVR.