The CAPI Effect: Boosting Survey Data through Mobile Technology

Publication | September 2019

This report discusses the role computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) can play in transforming survey data collection to allow better monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals.

  • US $21.00 (paperback)

The first part of this publication provides rigorous quantitative evidence on why CAPI is a better alternative to the traditional pen and paper interviewing method, particularly in the context of nationally representative surveys. The second part discusses the benefits of delivering CAPI training to statisticians using the popular massive online open course format. The final part provides a summary of existing CAPI platforms and offers some preliminary advice for NSOs to consider when selecting a CAPI platform for their institution.

This is a Special Supplement to the Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2019.


  • Timely, high-quality, consistent, and comparable data serve as the backbone to measuring the progress made towards achieving the targets embedded within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  •  Meeting the data requirements of the SDGs in the developing member economies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is challenging because several SDG indicators rely on census and survey data that are expensive to collect and take a long time to process.
  • The quality of survey data is another important factor to consider within the SDG framework since the reliability of an SDG indicator is directly impacted by it.
  • Information technology has revolutionized field data collection methods with computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) gaining traction amongst survey practitioners.
  • While developed economies have been using CAPI for several years, NSOs in developing economies have yet to take full advantage of this methodology.
  • To promote the use of CAPI in the Asia and Pacific region, ADB implemented a technical assistance project with three pilot economies: the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Sri Lanka, and Viet Nam.
  • An important concern raised by NSOs in Sri Lanka and Viet Nam was the need to quantify the benefits of CAPI relative to PAPI, in order to build a case for transitioning to CAPI for all future sample surveys. Consequently, the technical assistance project conducted randomized experiments in the two economies to compare CAPI with PAPI across four important issues: time efficiencies, data quality, cost efficiencies, and the perceptions of respondents.
  • In terms of data quality, results from both economies showed that a switch from PAPI to CAPI reduced the total number of errors. The studies also found that CAPI becomes cost-effective for large-scale surveys in both economies. In the case of Viet Nam, the study found that a switch from CAPI to PAPI reduces interview duration by an average of 9.42 minutes, translating to 27.3% less time per household. In terms of respondents’ perceptions of CAPI relative to PAPI, results from the two studies delivered mixed results.
  • To maximize the impact of technical assistance resources beyond the three pilot economies, ADB partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to develop two freely accessible online courses on CAPI. With 655 individuals enrolled across the two courses, to the best of our knowledge, this represents the largest-ever online training initiative by any international organization seeking to build statistical capacity.
  • The rise in CAPI-based data collection in recent years has led to a growing number of software platforms being developed. While a diversity of options in CAPI platforms is a positive, selecting the appropriate platform can be a challenge for NSOs wanting to transition to this new technology.
  • The report offers preliminary advice for NSOs to consider when selecting a CAPI platform for their institution. This will be followed up with a future publication that will provide a comparison of freely available CAPI platforms suitable for NSO use.


  • Highlights
  • Introduction
  • Pen and Paper Interviewing
  • Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing
  • The Need to Clearly Communicate CAPI’s Benefits
  • ADB’s Efforts toward Mainstreaming CAPI
  • Experimental Design
  • Results from the Experiments
  • Training Statisticians on CAPI through Online Courses
  • Existing CAPI Platforms: A Plethora of Choice
  • Conclusion
  • References

Additional Details

  • Capacity development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Poverty
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Statistics
  • Lao People's Democratic Republic
  • Sri Lanka
  • Viet Nam
  • 68
  • 6 x 9
  • FLS190429-3
  • 978-92-9261-726-4 (print)
  • 978-92-9261-727-1 (electronic)

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