"WOW! I have to share that I LOOOOVE this tool. So easy to use. Reliable. Meets our requirements. For a survey methods geek like myself, this tool is a real joy to use."

Dr. Charles Lau

Research Methodologist at RTI International

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Surveda was developed in collaboration with InSTEDD as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative NCD Mobile Phone Survey. In the context of this project, the tool collects critical information about noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in low- and middle-income countries worldwide (LMICs).

It reaches people via mobile phone, using text messages, voice calls, mobile web (responsive webforms), and more. It is an open source tool on an open software platform, which means that Surveda is accessible to every individual and organization interested in creating their own surveys.

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Requirements & Context

The goal of this project was to reduce the burden of Non-Communicable Diseases, via the systematic monitoring and surveillance of NCDs and associated risk factors.

To that end, we focused on creating a tool for survey design and management that makes it easy to create integrated, self administrable and multi-mode surveys that can later be deployed via SMS, IVR and mobile webforms. The tool was also required to handle cohort sampling, monitoring progress of each study, and present a simple visualization for survey results.

A particular feature of this project was that we got to build the tool in constant collaboration with epidemiologists (CDC) and survey specialists (RTI): Surveda is not yet another survey tool, but one created using a participatory process with the experts that would then go on to use it.

Studies on NCDs were to be conducted in a variety of countries, which required the platform to interact via IVR and SMS with telecommunication service providers in each of those countries.

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We began the project with an initial team of six people, with the purpose of designing, building and testing the platform over a period of 16 weeks, during Phase One of the project.

Phase Two would consist of a series of pilot surveys to be deployed in different countries across 5 continents. Some overlap of Phases One & Two activities was helpful, particularly for dealing with telecom connections.

A significant amount of the SMS, IVR and Telecom connection software tools had already been developed as part of our previous work for InSTEDD’s open source platform:

* Verboice: a free and open-source tool that makes it easy for anyone to create and run applications that interact via voice, allowing users to listen and record messages in their own language and dialect, or answer questions with a phone keypad.

* Nuntium: a set of services and clients that allow anyone to build SMS-based applications with uses that range from simple modem-based needs to countrywide deployments integrated with wireless operators.

The proposed solution would leverage these technologies to reduce overall cost and risk. The platform that articulates these existing tools was built using Phoenix (Elixir) for the backend, with React.JS and Redux on the client side.

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User Research & Implementation

The second phase of the project included a series of pilots to be performed in various countries. The first leg of this phase started with Morocco and Zambia. After that, deployment pilots were carried out in Malawi, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Ecuador, and are projected to continue in Mumbai and Cambodia.

The project required traveling to each country for three general purposes: telecommunications configurations, user research and administrative arrangements and demos with local Health Ministries.

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Leandro and Juan traveled to Morocco to conduct pilot trials alongside the Ministry of Health before deploying the first national survey. They worked directly with Health Ministry personnel, in their offices.

By the time they got there, the local team was already building the official form. The survey pilot consisted of three stages: the first one with people within the team, a second one with college students and a third one with a more representative population sample, similar to the target audience. The pilot successfully tested the entire survey circuit and the tool, and user interaction with the interface.


Leandro left Morocco on his way to meet Santiago in Zambia, where they conducted a demo of the tool for the Ministry of Health staff.

Later, along with the Ministry staff, they took a tour of the local telcos, MTN and Airtel, to test the SIM cards and make sure everything worked correctly in the context of use of the tool.

On a second trip to Zambia, Juan and Mati took two physical servers to run Verboice within the Telecommunications Company DataCenter, and thus establish the connection with Mobile Network Operators. Later on, they visited the Ministry of Health to outline the survey’s launch.


Martin flew to Atlanta in June 2017 to conduct a workshop with representatives from the CDC, RTI and InSTEDD, where they went over the functionality of the tool and use cases, and discussed the future of the project. A second workshop was led by Manu in February 2019, where the team gathered feedback about the tool, defined priorities and discussed best practices to engage the telcos and Ministries of Health in each country.


Mati went to Quito in July 2018 to present Surveda to the Ministry of Health, invited by PAHO (PanAmerican Health Organization). After that, he went on a visit to the INEC (Ecuador’s National Institute of Statistics and Census) to give them a demo of the tool, since the organism would be taking the lead of the surveys in Ecuador.

Manu later traveled to Quito in October of that same year, to run a test of Surveda with the local Ministry of Health staff, and meet local MNOs to start conversations on the possibility to get an SIP connection.


Mati traveled to the Philippines, with the main purpose of establishing an SMS gateway with the local aggregator Chikka.


In September 2018, Mati traveled to Sri Lanka to conduct user research with technical staff at the Ministry of Health, and meet with MNOs to establish connectivity.


Sol and Nico traveled to Mumbai to meet with MCGM and run a pilot test of Surveda. While staying there, they also scheduled meetings with local aggregators and MNOs to test connectivity.


Martín traveled to Malawi to test connections before launching the survey. We worked with Africa’s Talking, a regional aggregator that was setting up their connections in Malawi for the first time.

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The first official use of the Surveda platform in real settings was conducted on May 24th, 2017. Since then, the NCD Mobile Phone Survey has been successfully conducted in five countries, Zambia (2017), Philippines (2018), Morocco (2019), Malawi (2019), and Sri Lanka (2019), with a total of 23,682 interviews completed.

Three years later, Surveda has been used in a wide variety of settings, where over 2.6 million minutes of voice calls and more than 2.7 million SMS have been expended on almost 30.000 surveys across the world, helping governments and the medical community create a better understanding on non-communicable diseases (NDCs) and their impact on the population.

The CDC surveyed the participating employees to assess user experience, and the results indicated that as users became more familiar with the system, and found it easier to use, the majority were highly satisfied (94%) and would recommend the system for future monitoring efforts (89%).

Surveda is an easily adaptable technology and can be modified for future emergency responses, contact investigations, or routine monitoring for public health protections.


Users can create and manage multiple surveys at once, and compare their performances at a glance.


The survey dashboard provides a quick overview of different campaigns’ performance, status, participation and engagement levels.


Questionnaire flow can be tested without a channel, as its own phone simulator.


Users can edit every detail of their surveys in an intuitive interface, and even schedule them to launch at a particular time, avoid specific dates (e.g. holidays), and define retry schema to recontact respondents to complete the survey.


Being a multi-country platform, surveys can be set up to launch in different languages, as needed.


This panel allows users to control the channels and providers used to launch surveys, and keep track of their usage and performance.

Open source

This project is Open Source, we invite you to collaborate and join us in the development of a better world through the use of technology.


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