Mobile Management, Part II: Mobile Reminders & Alerts

The spread of mobile phones and internet connectivity provides opportunities to make every program run more effectively and efficiently. We call this “mobile management,” and Magpi can help – even if it’s nothing to do with surveying or data collection, per se. : with easy automation, reminders, scheduling, and other tools. In our last post we talked about automating the various activity logs and other paper forms in a project.  This week we’ll talk about mobile reminders and alerts.

Magpi Mobile Management, Part II: Mobile Reminders & Alerts

alarmclockEvery project can benefit from automatic reminders and alerts.  We don’t need a study to tell us that alarm clocks work, and likewise it’s very clear that sending people a meeting reminder makes it more likely they’ll attend the meeting.

Of course, that only makes sense if it’s easy and affordable – and with Magpi it is.

UNICEF Example: Reminders for Data Submission and Meeting Attendance

UNICEF has long been a user of Magpi for mobile data collection in the context of polio eradication and other aspects of child health, in Sudan, Kenya, and elsewhere.  Let’s imagine a UNICEF team that’s working on a variety of child health activities.   Every week, their field teams are supposed to submit travel logs, and also attend a staff meeting – but the project manager has noticed that she’s not getting all the travel logs, and that attendance at the staff meeting is down.

Automating travel logs is easy with Magpi, as discussed in our last post, but the project manager thinks maybe it would help to remind the staff by SMS mobile reminders.

Let’s go through this step by step.

Step One: Importing Contacts, Using Groups

To communicate with your team, you’ll need to let Magpi know who they are.  That means importing them as contacts into Magpi from an Excel file.  And just as important as learning how to import is learning how to use groups in Magpi.

Groups are words that you can use to categorize and organize your contacts (this is the similar to the use of “tags” for Magpi forms and messages).  Each contact can be in one or more groups.  So in our UNICEF example, we can imagine that all of the in-country staff might be in the “country” group, while only some of them who routinely go into the field might be classified in the “field” group.

So here’s what an Excel file might look like with a group of staff members for our example:

UNICEF example contacts

and here’s the same group on the Magpi Messaging dashboard after import:

UNICEF example contacts

Step Two: Creating Reminders for the Groups

Now that they’re imported in Magpi, and assigned to groups, we can create reminder messages that pertain to all of the contacts, or only to specific groups.

As an example, let’s make a text message reminder to go out to the field team every Friday afternoon, to remind them to submit their travel logs.

To do this, we’ll go back to Magpi’s Messaging dashboard (by clicking Messaging at the top Magpi menu), and click the Add link over the list of messages to bring up the new message dialog.  Then we’ll enter an appropriate message.



Note that we’ve taken the opportunity to tag (i.e. categorize) the message as pertaining to “UNICEF”,”field”, and “admin”.  That can help us later when we have lots of messages to manage.

Next stop: setting the timing of the reminder.

Step Three: Setting Timing for the Reminder

Now we’ve got the contacts, sorted into groups, and we’ve got the reminder message. All we need to do is to combine them with a timing.  To do this we’ll need to:

  1. select the message
  2. select the contacts
  3. select the timing

And in the image below you can see that we’ve done just that, specifying that the message should first go out on Friday, October 21 at 1300 Colombo time – and to repeat for one year (52 weeks).


Then just click send and you’ve got yourself an automated mobile reminders system, which should increase the on-time reports and cut down on admin staff needing to track down the non-submitters.

And it would be just as easy to set up another reminder for the staff meeting.

Less Than the Price of Lunch

And if you’re wondering about the cost, we estimate that sending that weekly reminder to those five staff members for a year would cost about US $5.

Yes, five dollars for the whole year!

And the system would probably save more than a few hours of administrative time.


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