by Haley Cook-Simmons, Africa Project Manager at the Navanti Group

In 2015, Navanti adopted computer-assisted personal interviewing technology (CAPI) for data collection worldwide. Since then, we’ve found CAPI to be particularly useful in promoting gender sensitivity and the protection of subjects, including in research projects that require gender-related data collection on food security and women, peace, and security in the Middle East and Africa. Navanti’s gender-sensitive research approach considers gender dynamics at all stages of research, including questionnaire design and fieldwork. This approach also aims to have equal participation of women and men in research, as both data collectors and respondents.

Traditional pen-and-paper data collection’s slow pace of data entry, high potential for user error, limited possibilities for quality control, cumbersome data transmission, and long timelines for data analysis, did not allow for continuous feedback on data quality to field researchers in remote locations, preventing the ability to make corrections and improvements while still in the field. Pen-and-paper data collection was also not optimal for protecting research subject’s information and preventing the misuse of data, such as personally identifying information, especially when combined with narrative or other data on sensitive topics.

With CAPI, Navanti has been able to ensure continuous and real-time data quality control. Karine Lepillez, Director of Gender Policy and Practice, said, “this means we can ensure same-sex interviewing, with men interviewing men and women interviewing women, to avoid gendered power differentials between interviewee and respondent and provide safer spaces for women in particular to voice their opinions.”  Additionally, Navanti makes use of data security features built into many CAPI platforms, applying these to gender data and other demographic markers of identity and belonging for greater protection of subjects and sensitive narratives. These can include password-protected access credentials and encryption.

“It’s also important that we adhere to best practices by deploying enumerator teams that are mixed gender pairs or small groups,” said Alex Zito, Director of Analysis. “Often, before we get to the stage of data collection for women to interview women or men to interview men, navigating informed consent requires us to have representatives of both genders who can speak to more than one set of stakeholders within the household – especially in cases where we require a private safe space for women to participate independently and confidentially. CAPI collection allows us to maintain comfort for a one-on-one survey interview between a woman enumerator and a participant, without deterrence or disruption, while also allowing us digital measures to ensure data quality, such as logic checks, input parameters, and confirmation of location, time, and duration.”

Navanti continues to be able to ensure, with near real time feedback, that the enumerators of the appropriate gender are interviewing research participants. With single entry of research data by a field researcher into a data collection application programmed for immediate data upload to a server, replacing the lengthy process of handwritten data on paper forms followed by typed double data entry, CAPI allows for near real-time feedback on clear, emerging trends in collected data. This feedback provides opportunities for continuous learning and improvement in data collection processes and empowers local researchers to make decisions on how to improve these processes within local contexts.

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