246243 Using mobile phone technology in baseline assessments in Malawi for improving supply chains and product availability for community case management: Challenges and Opportunities

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 8:48 AM

Megan Noel, MPH , John Snow, Inc., Arlington, VA
Yasmin Chandani , SC4CCM Project, JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., Nairobi, Kenya
Tim Williams , JSI, Arlington, VA
Sarah Andersson, B Phar , MPH , SC4CCM- JSI Research & Training, Arlington, VA
Michelle Pahl , SC4CCM Project, JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., Arlington, VA
Barbara Felling , Usaid | Deliver Project, John Snow, Inc., Arlington, VA
Collect survey data on the supply chain to the community level in Malawi for products to treat childhood illnesses to enable rapid development of a five-year implementation plan.

A baseline assessment was undertaken using mobile phones in 10 districts of Malawi. The survey used data entry forms to conduct interviews, observe storage conditions, assess stock status and tally service statistics at various levels of the supply chain. 11 forms with 1,003 fields were used. Data collectors trained on using phones and survey tools one week prior to fieldwork, and conducted a 1.5 day pilot test.

This survey showed mixed results using mobile phone technology. Software enabled immediate data transmission to the web-based database, reducing data entry time and improving fieldwork through remote supervision to deployed teams. Upfront programming and editing forms was more resource-intensive than equivalent paper-based questionnaires. Challenges included problems with skip functions, unreliable connectivity, freezing of phones and network outages.

Mobile technology can work effectively for this size survey if sufficient time is allowed for the design phase and functions like skip logic mimic a paper survey. In countries with unreliable network coverage, alternative methods for backing up and transferring data are necessary. Rapid support from programmers is crucial while in the field to adapt forms and fix bugs. Benefits include rapid availability of data to inform new interventions, capitalizing on momentum created during the information gathering phase. The upfront time investment pays off if the survey and mobile technology are used in multiple countries.

Learning Areas:
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify benefits and challenges associated with conducting an assessment using mobile phone technology

Keywords: Methodology, Survey

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I advise on monitoring & evaluation aspects of the SC4CCM project
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.