Using Tablet Computers to Implement Surveys in Challenging Environments

Lindsay J Benstead, Kristen Kao, Pierre F Landry, Ellen M Lust, Dhafer Malouche


Computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) has increasingly been used in developing countries, but literature and training on best practices have not kept pace. Drawing on our experiences using CAPI to implement the Local Governance Performance Index (LGPI) in Tunisia and Malawi and an election study in Jordan, this paper makes practical recommendations for mitigating challenges and leveraging CAPI’s benefits to obtain high quality data. CAPI offers several advantages. Tablets facilitate complex skip patterns and randomization of long question batteries and survey experiments, which helps to reduce measurement error. Tablets’ global positioning system (GPS) technology reduces sampling error by locating sampling units and facilitating analysis of neighborhood effects. Immediate data uploading, time-stamps for individual questions, and interview duration capture allowed real time data quality checks and interviewer monitoring. Yet, CAPI entails challenges, including costs of learning new software; questionnaire programming; and piloting to resolve coding bugs; and ethical and logistical considerations, such as electricity and Internet connectivity.


Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI); challenging survey environments; tablet computers; Middle East and North Africa; Sub-Saharan Africa; Local Governance

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