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Africa’s Voices: Reflections on a Pilot Study Using Mobile Phones and Interactive Radio to Survey Public Opinion in Africa

20th November 2012

Africa’s Voices: Reflections on a pilot study using mobile phones and interactive radio to survey public opinion in Africa

Dr Claudia Abreu Lopes(CGHR Post-doctoral Research Associate, University of Cambridge)

The widespread use of mobile phones in the global south over the last decade has posed new challenges for development researchers, organizations and practitioners. Innovative research focusing on the beneficial impact of mobile phones for economic and social development has opened the recent field of Mobiles for Development (M4D). A promising line of research looks into the way mobile technology has been incorporated into local contexts and cultures to create new opportunities for political participation generating governance outcomes. “Africa’s Voices” combines mobile phones and interactive radio using FrontlineSMS to survey audiences’ opinions on governance and development issues. Radios stations based currently on nine African countries ask weekly questions to their listeners who answer via SMS . The answers were exported to CGHR for comparative analysis and the results shared with the stations producing material for radio shows. By encouraging debate and accountability, Africa’s Voices aims to be a continental-wide collaborative platform on African’s public opinion. The one-year pilot of Africa’s Voices is a quasi-experimental design aimed to test and compare different methodologies to optimize the implementation of the project. Working closely with FrontlineSMS, radio stations, and receiving inputs from the audiences, the pilot has allowed to explore methodological innovations and to reflect upon ethical challenges. In this seminar, the research background and preliminary insights of “Africa’s Voices” pilot will be presented leading to discussion around the potential and limitations of conducting ICT -based research in the African context. This paper is part of the CGHR Research Group, a forum for graduate students and early-career researchers from any department and disciplinary background researching issues of governance and human rights in the global, regional, and national contexts.

For further information on Africa's Voices and updates on research progress, click here.