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Submitted by amir on Tue, 09/09/2008 - 13:30.
Information from mobile phone surveys can help you understand your constituents' needs and hopes, which means you can better represent them and plan more effectively. Surveys can also be used to get opinions and feedback from the wider public or from sections of the public. People surveyed can be asked to provide opinions on a range of topics such as recent news items, themes or current affairs, or they can take part in voting or polling.
Mobile phones can be used in a variety of ways for polling. It is possible to simply call people up and ask them questions, but this can get very expensive. A cheaper way of polling people is to use SMS messages, where the user sends in a given keyword (selected from a list of possible answers that you have offered them) in response to a question. This can be a good way of getting quick reactions from people as they carry their mobile phones with them most of the time. However, since there is a limit of 160 characters on SMS, you should be very clear about what you are trying to achieve with the poll, and about how you phrase your question and the possible answers. Test the poll on a small group of people before you begin polling in earnest, to see if the question and answer options are clear enough.
In estimating the cost of this type of project you should factor in the expense of publicising the phone number you want people to dial in to. You could consider buying a short code (a short phone number people may find easier to remember). This is an expensive option but might encourage people to respond.
It may also be worthwhile to set up a general phone number which your organisation can use to gather feedback on an ongoing project or activity.
In Kenya informal surveying has been carried out to allow people to report corruption and environmental degradation. interactive SMS services to influence local governance have been set up to which enable constituents to influence constituency project choices and to monitor development activities.