Magpi Structured SMS: Simple Data in a Single Text


Easy data reporting, with or without a smartphone app

Most data collection with Magpi is occurring on smart phones and tablets.  That provides a lot of data quality control, and users love the ease of the Magpi app.  We love it, too, but we don’t want people to overlook another available Magpi tool: “structured SMS”.  This simple SMS reporting tool works from any phone to collect simple data — making it perfect for repeat reporting of simple information from field staff with very basic mobile phones.

Magpi’s structured SMS enables reporting of simple data from any phone.

Structured SMS: how does it work?

Structured SMS requires that the person sending data arrange it in a specific order, in a single text message, with # characters in between the data variables.   So, for example, you might have a stock clerk in a supply warehouse who needs to send daily reports of stock levels.  This can easily be done with structured SMS:

Magpi structured SMS for supply chain management

In this case, the clerk simply has to send a text, starting with the form name or code, then the levels for each supply, separated by #.

A system like this can  be set up in minutes!   No consultants, no programming, no meetings with carriers.

Structured SMS: scalable global health reporting solution

The ease of use and exceptionally low-cost of structured SMS has made it very useful for collecting simple data from large numbers of health system reporters.  For example, the IRC has for years used Magpi’s structured SMS in West Africa to have rural health workers report childhood births and deaths per week – in fact it was IRC that funded the addition of the structured SMS feature to Magpi.

The cost per year to have 500 IRC-affiliated health workers sending that birth/death data in weekly:

$5000 Magpi Pro annual subscription + (52 weeks * 500 health workers * $0.02 per text) = $5000 + $520 = $5520 per year

Wow!  To get so much information so inexpensively and easily, across a whole country, for only $5520 per year, is a great example of the power of Magpi: by eliminating the need for programmers and tech consultants (and their high costs), Magpi dramatically lowers the costs of getting great data.

Which is why CDC is now using Magpi structured SMS for “zero reporting” Ebola surveillance across West Africa: trained staff using very basic mobile phones report the number of suspected Ebola cases every day with a single text.  Because Magpi’s structured SMS is so simple to set up, with such low operating costs, it was the only way to cover the entire region so thoroughly and so cost-effectively.

Other uses? We can think of plenty!

Of course, this same approach could be used for so many more things: submitting travel vouchers, voting on proposals, and more!  And we’ll be adding new features to structured SMS soon, so keep your eyes on this space!

For more information on structured SMS, check out our support materials:

Introduction to SMS data collection with Magpi

Entering data by SMS versus by using the Magpi apps

Video: collecting data by SMS with Magpi

How to Create a Structured SMS form with Magpi

How to Deploy a Structured SMS Form with Magpi


Also published on Medium.

Remote Data Collection

Download Our Remote Data Collection Guide and Learn How to Use SMS and IVR to Collect More Data, for Less Money, from Remote Respondents Using any Mobile Phone, no Matter How Basic.

Download Remote Data Collection Guide