Deep Dive: Voice Data Collection

Deep Dive: Voice Data Collection

For about 100 years, paper was the method for data collection, and just in the past decade or so it’s become more and more common to collect data using mobile apps (like Magpi!) on smart devices.  And even more recently, tools like our iSMS allow even data collection from even “dumb” phones via the universal SMS functionality.

These are all amazing, and fantastic improvements over paper in terms of speed, accuracy, and convenience – but they are not ideal for getting information from a particularly important demographic: the less literate groups within a population.   For people who are not able to read at all, or that can’t read very well, we’ve been forced to send “data collectors”, at great expense of time and money, out to perform interviews at homes, or schools, or markets.

As we’ve previously discussed (in “Mobile Data Collection Comes of Age“), use of SMS allows us to avoid having to go to the field to collect data – but SMS won’t work with illiterate populations (or populations that are literate, but not in your language).  And voice data collection, or IVR (interactive voice response), fills that gap – allowing remote data collection from even illiterate or less literate populations.

Magpi Makes it Easy

Of course, most of us have used basic IVR systems – for example, when calling large corporations.  “Press zero to speak with an operator” is something that all of us have done at some point.  The idea is simple: the IVR system typically “speaks to” us with recorded, or dynamically generated audio, and we respond by pressing the phone’s number keypad.  Unfortunately, until recently IVR was so expensive to set up and deploy that only large corporations – or the government – could afford to us it.

With Magpi IVR, we change all that.  Now with any paid Magpi subscription – starting at just over $400 per month for the annual Pro – you can set up and deploy voice data collection for just pennies per call.  No programming, no technicians, no consultants, and no need to interact with the mobile phone companies.

And the best part is that you don’t have to learn anything new.

Creating an IVR System Just Means Making a Magpi Form

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already got at least a free Magpi account, and have created a Magpi form. Or maybe you’re a long-time Magpi user and you’ve dived into Magpi Reports or Magpi Messaging, too.  Either way, you already know the skills and techniques for creating a Magpi voice data collection system – and if you’ve never created a Magpi form before it will only take you minutes (definitely not days!) to learn from scratch.  We recommend watching our “Introduction to Mobile Data Cmanphonesmallollection” video, now available with French or Spanish subtitles, and focusing on the form creation part.

There Are Limits

If you’re experienced in creating and deploying forms using our Magpi mobile apps, you know that you’ve got the choice of text questions, numeric, GPS, images, and a lot more. Well, for Magpi IVR (at least for now), you’re limited to one kind of response: single numeric digits.

Yep, and that is probably not too surprising when you think about it, because that’s the way most expensive corporate IVR systems work, too (“Press 2 to pay your bill…).


Another aspect of voice data collection that it shares in common with Magpi iSMS, but that is very different from app-based data collection approaches is that there is no human data collector involved: the respondent is interacting directly with the Magpi system.  So you’ll need to make your outgoing voice messages polite and conversational.  The diagram below illustrates some of this difference on different platforms (click to view a larger version in a new window).

How does voice data collection differ from paper or mobile apps?


Once you’ve created a Magpi form with the right language to deploy as via Magpi voice data collection, just open that form and click on the Share tab, then on the “Interactive Voice Response” sub-tab.  From there it’s just four quick steps and you’re all set, as you can see in the image below (click to view a larger version in a new window).

sharing a Magpi form by IVR


What About Cost?

Probably the most common question we get at Magpi when people are considering collecting data by SMS is “how do we make it free for respondents?”  The problem is that it’s pretty hard, and pretty expensive, to do that for SMS data collection: you can reduce the respondent cost to just pennies, but it’s hard to get to zero without an expensive toll-free short code.

With IVR, though, it’s different: the entire cost of the phone call is typically covered from the Magpi side (that is, by you, the Magpi user who designed the voice data collection system), rather than by the respondent (though this can depend on the arrangement the respondent has with the carrier, it’s true).  Just a few examples of the per-minute call cost: Kenya = $0.24, Myanmar = $0.56, and US or Mexico =  $0.03.

For more information on the cost of deploying voice data collection, read “Getting More Data for Less Money” here on the Magpi blog, or contact us.

Just Getting Started

As powerful as Magpi IVR currently is, we’re really just on version 1.0.  Over 2017 we’ll be adding more options for timing, questions, and responses.  If you have any suggestions, we’d love to hear them, or schedule a demo (below)!




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