Innovative mobile research in developing countries

Emmanuel Bellity

INTRODUCTION

Research is about people. To better understand them, we can look and listen: watch how they behave in a shop, analyze what they are saying on Twitter, read what they write on their blogs and newspapers. Or we can communicate and interact directly with people, by discussing face to face, by sending a questionnaire by mail, or by using a device as an intermediary such as a telephone, a computer, or a mobile.

Online research has grown significantly in the past 10 years. Apart from the technological and economical advantages, there is one simple sociological reason for this: as people communicate more and more through the internet, it is natural that a researcher keep up with that trend and interview people where they communicate the most, hence the natural interest for mobile, and, more recently, for smartphones.

Mobile research is sometimes seen as a subset or extension of online research. But we would be missing what’s really revolutionary about mobile in the field of opinions and research. This is the first and only data collection tool that is directly associated with an individual. While computers and telephones were shared at home, at the office, or in a cyber-café, mobile phones are the voice of one, anytime, anywhere.