Mobile Beneficiary Feedback Tools

As more open aid data becomes available, the opportunity exists to combine this data with project feedback to help improve transparency, accountability, and communication from donor through to the stakeholders and vice versa.

In this post we briefly survey how organizations are starting to explore the use of mobile phone beneficiary feedback mechanisms to monitor and evaluate development projects. This data, eventually combined with other open aid project data, can be an effective record of what’s working and what needs improvement from the voices most affected by the project design and implementation.

Below is a sampling of projects, tools and initiatives engaged in mobile feedback mechanisms:

  • The Humanitarian Innovation Fund has an interesting approach that according to its website is “using technology to increase the effectiveness of accountability to affected communities by creating an interactive communication platform using innovative SMS and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology in a humanitarian setting.”  Essentially they use SMS to communicate with stakeholders to provide advanced information on potential disasters and to learn and communicate with their stakeholders.  See:

  • Better Place Labresearch digital communication for the social sector and develop tools for you to use”. They have done excellent research into this space and have begun to trial the use of mobile technologies for beneficiary feedback.   They feel that in developing countries beneficiary feedback is best collected via mobile phones.  They are a strong proponent of stakeholder feedback.  According to their website “stakeholder feedback leads to”:
    • better identification of problems through the alternate feedback;
    • participation of beneficiaries in finding solutions;
    • more targeted allocation of resources;
    • launch of innovative impact measurement systems;
    • quicker detection of mismanagement and fraud;
    • real-time communication with beneficiaries directly impacted by the aid projects;
    • authentic additional information for sponsors; and
    • better insights into the impact of individual aid projects.


    • AidData, UNICEF Uganda, Ushahidi, and the World Bank Institute are developing a methodology and platform to solicit, gather, and collate beneficiary feedback on development projects and localized needs.” according to the Aid Data website.   The project will enhance the existing project data collected using UNICEF’s uReport and DevTrac systems as well as Ushahidi’s “experience and tools for triaging large amounts of unstructured data” to create an Enhanced Project View and to become a vehicle for public feedback via text message. See video on UNICEF’s uReport Ref:

          • AKVO flow – “is a software tool that collects, manages, analyses and displays geographically referenced monitoring and evaluation data using mobile phones.”  according to its website.  The tool is designed for the Android platform and can operate even when no mobile connection exists.  Once the user is back in an area where a mobile connection is found, it will upload the data.  According to Peter van de Linde AKVO partnered with who have extensive experience in this field”  AKVO is tying together (Akvo Openaid), project reporting (Akvo RSR) – and survey tools (Akvo FLOW) together towards end-to-end transparency.  See:

        • Plan Thailand, Pan, Laos, Plan India  uses POI Mapper for their monitoring and evaluation programs to do such things as track tuberculosis in communities.  It’s useful for field work, conducting survey and GIS tracking among other features.

      • Data Dyne created EPISurveyor. According to its website Episurveyor users include: World Bank, Abt Associates, John Snow Inc, the World Health Organization, MSH,  the Pan American Health Organization, Camfed International, TulaSalud, Children’s National Medical Center, the Smithsonian Institution, and the International Federation of the Red Cross.

    • Open Data Kit is a “is a free and open-source set of tools which help organizations author, field, and manage mobile data collection solutions.” Kiva is using the Open Data Kit in Kenya

  • Frontline SMS.  According to its website Frontline SMS “enables instantaneous two-way communication on a large scale. It’s easy to implement, simple to operate, and best of all, the software is free; you just pay for the messages you send in the normal way.”

This is a sampling of some of the projects now underway to improve accountability and increase the effectiveness of aid.   Mobile Active is also a good resource for activities and creative uses of mobile technology for development  – see their listing of mobile tools here :  Notes: Thanks to Dan Mihalia and Development Gateway Foundation for some of the pointers to tools found in this article.

6 thoughts on “Mobile Beneficiary Feedback Tools

  1. Thanks for including EpiSurveyor in this great list of tools. EpiSurveyor is by far the most widely used of any data collection tool in international development — with more than 10,000 users worldwide in more than 170 countries, including organizations like UNICEF, WHO, CDC, the Smithsonian, UNFPA, JSI, Abt, MSH, the World Bank, and many others — and winner of awards from the Wall Street Journal, MIT-Lemelson, FastCompany, ComputerWorld, and many others.

    It’s that widely-used because it’s the easiest, fastest, and least expensive to set up and maintain — no programmers or technical staff required at all.

    And in January we’ll release Magpi (rhymes with sky), a completely rewritten version of EpiSurveyor with more than 40 new features suggested by our many users. More features, same great prices, including our free version. I hope you’ll check it out.

    Please note, by the way, that we at DataDyne did not “help to co-create” EpiSurveyor: we created it. 🙂

  2. Hi Joel, thanks for your comments. I’ve updated the post re: co-creation. Cheers, Michael

  3. Thanks, Michael! That was quick! 🙂

  4. I am actually building a entrepreneur-powered database for just these types of data collection tools. It allows the developers of tools to fill out a profile for their data collection tool that feeds into a browsable database of all the tools by their specific features.

    I’m just getting it off the ground here: . I’m adding some of the top solutions like Datadyne, FrontlineSMS, and others (Joel – please create an account, I’ll give you authorship of the profile on EpiSurveyor/Magpi so you can update it).

  5. […] Mobile Beneficiary Feedback Tools6 Nov 2012 […]

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