New “MagSync” Local Sync App for SMS Data Collection
Use of Magpi’s SMS data collection has been growing at a rapid pace, as many of our users realize the cost savings involved in “remote data collection”, where you do not need to send staff out to the far field, and instead have field personnel (or the public) send data to you from their own mobile devices.
As we’ve previously noted (“Getting More Data for Less Money“), this transformation from “go-to-field” to “get-from-field” is making data acquisition less expensive, more frequent, and easier. Considering that this type of data collection eliminates fuel and vehicle costs, per diem payments, lodging costs, and other expensive items, savings of 80% or more are possible compared with sending data collectors to the field.
Because of the interest in, and increasing use of, this type of data collection, we’ve been getting lots of great feedback from our users that is helping us to improve the performance of the product – and the single issue that has been the greatest sticking point has been setting up a “local gateway”.
Generally, the nuts-and-bolts of setting up an SMS data collection system are simple (we detail this in our Remote Data Collection Guide ebook). There are two approaches: (1) using Magpi’s built-in SMS system, which uses an international number, and (2) using a “local gateway”. As detailed in the guide:
The local gateway provides a local phone number for respondents to report to and then forwards their texts to Magpi, allowing them to send local SMS messages, rather than international ones.
Here are the two approaches:
The “local gateway” consists of an Android phone that is connected to the internet and to the local cell network, and that is running an SMS syncing app.
Up to now, we’ve been recommending the Ushahidi SMSSync SMS syncing app to set up a local gateway (as the app on the Android phone in the purple box on the right).
Although we’ve had pretty good results we realized that it would benefit Magpi users if we could more tightly control the integration of the app with Magpi – so we’re now putting the finishing touches on our new “MagSync” SMS local gateway app.
For Magpi users, this will simplify the already-pretty-simple setup of a local gateway in-country. Magpi users just log into the gateway app using their Magpi userid and password and the app then reads their configuration from the Magpi servers. This eliminates several stages in the setup process.
Another advantage is that as bugs inevitably surface, our Magpi developers have full control over the source code for the app and can quickly nail down any issue.
With the popularity of SMS around the world, we know this will help Magpi continue to be in the lead with SMS data collection as we now work to include other SMS-like messaging systems (like Telegram and Facebook Messenger) with Magpi.
Also published on Medium.
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