Mobile phones and mobile communication devices in survey data collection Expression of Interest (Integrated Project) Need and
Relevance The technological advancements during the last few years and ongoing efforts to strengthen the European competitiveness on the global wireless communication market have influenced people’s everyday life dramatically: As a result of these technological advancements, wireless communications devices are becoming more and more popular and widely accepted. The mobile phone coverage, for example, has reached 60, 70 or even 80 percent in most European countries. By contrast, the coverage with fixed home phones remains stable at best or starts to decline in some more advanced European countries, with the Nordic countries being trendsetters for most of Europe and the OECD (with 90 percent mobile phone coverage in some population segments). Besides increasing coverage rates, public attitudes towards mobile communication have changed: Today, many people consider their mobile phone to be their primary communication device and in some countries we observe already a decreasing coverage with traditional fixed household telephones. In Finland, for example, 75 percent of young people living alone have mobile phones but no fixed phones. For the state of art of social science research, official statistics and market research, this shift in the use of and the preferences for communication devices has several consequences: e.g. increasing coverage problems and hard-to-reach populations in traditional surveys. These consequences shall be monitored, addressed and compensated for, by using mobile phones in survey research. However, because this movement towards wireless communication devices in the general public is still in its infancies, one can expect a more rigorous development towards integrated communication devices (integration of voice, e-mail, visual information e. g. UMTS) within the next years. In order to be prepared we need to advance our survey research methodology according to the technological shift. Thus, we will not only make use mobile phones in survey research but also of other emerging wireless communication devices. This will enable us to maintain our ability
to monitor the European societies. In addition, making use of wireless communication devices in survey research enables researchers to describe and analyze less developed regions and societies outside of Europe (wither lower fixed household telephone coverage rates) on an appropriate methodological level, and thus, strengthen the European competitiveness in public opinion research and market research. Activities (1) Ongoing monitoring of mobile phone usage and other wireless communication devices: So far, neither the structure of the telephone coverage not the user patters of phone types are known in most countries. Thus, we see the need to conduct a survey on mobile communication that is specifically designs for that purpose. In order to monitor this fast growing market on the one hand and to assess the changing attitudes and using patterns of the general public on the other hand (including special populations like the elderly, the less educated) we need to survey a considerable sample in all European countries using a face-to-face interview method. This effort should not only cover mobile communication devices but also questions on the fast changing using patterns. Thus, we need a substantial questionnaire module that exceeds some basic question, e.g. regarding mobile phone ownership. In this series of questions, instead, we need to address personal preferences and attitudes towards mobile communication as well as cultural habits in terms of everyday communicational behaviors. Starting with a questionnaire module on mobile phones we feel the need to update this module while new technologies become available for the general public, like wireless handheld computers, third generation mobile phones including pictures and video, etc. This will enable us to assess the pros and cons of surveys conducted by mobile communication devices and the willingness of people to accept mobile surveys.
(2) Technology: For now, mobile phone surveys do not differ to a great extend compared to traditional telephone surveys. However, considering the integration of verbal communication, e-mail and visual information, survey researchers need to consider new ways of doing surveys. In the near future these integrated communication devices will enable us to take advantage of the benefits of a self administrated survey (like web surveys) and at the same time apply probability
samples due to the accessibility of the communication devices by telephone number (RDD technique). However, this calls for technical requirements as well as methodological advancements. As a result, we need to develop the technical prerequisites to set up, conduct and administer surveys using mobile communication devices (e. g. server side software solutions) as well as internationally comparable methodological standards of conducting wireless surveys. (3) Methodological advancements and best practice: In order to enable mobile phone surreys we need a development of standard procedures for conducting mobile surveys. Before making use of this new data collection technology we need some basic methods research. That includes sampling procedures, knowledge regarding questionnaire design, a basic understanding of the respondent behavior when answering a mobile survey from a cognitive and social perspective. That includes also unit non-response and item non-response issues as well as social desirability when answering survey questions in a public place etc. For now, best practice guides–that should be developed in laboratory and field experimental settings--should cover mostly mobile phone surveys. Later, other wireless communications devices—like UMTS-phones and other wireless communication devices—will be added. (4) Assessing and forming the European public opinion: Based on the three activities mentioned above we would promote the idea of an integrated approach towards the European public opinion by using means of mobile communication. The development of survey research in the member states and the associated states is not quit coherent. Some countries follow high quality area probability sampling procedures and conduct mostly face-to-face surveys; others relay heavily on telephone surveys using traditional household telephone lines. These heterogeneous methodologies and diverse quality standards make it difficult to compare results from different countries and to estimate results on a European level. The emergence of a relatively standardized wireless communication technology (that will become even more homogenous in the next future) offers the possibility to conduct telephone surveys using an almost identical methodology in all countries. This standardization allows a more profound investigation of social and market research topics on a European level and at the same time a detailed comparison of the cultural and regional differences among the societies and regions.
The development of an integrated approach to assess and measure the European public opinion using mobile communication devices might promote and support the emergence of public opinion surveys, social science surveys and market research survey on a European level. Those findings on a European level might also promote the self-perception of the European public opinion. (5) Dissemination: All activities mentioned above will generate innovative methodological knowledge and best practice standards. However, in order to promote and discuss these findings with the users of survey methodology, conferences and workshops with participants from the key players in market research, social science research and official statistics should be organized. This will prevent the development of knowledge and standards that do not meet the needs of the professional survey research community. Schedule This integrated project should be implemented quickly in order to provide best practices, tools and experiences to substantive researchers fast. New technological advancements are underway, thus, an increasing gap between current survey research practice and the state of the art in mobile communication is to be expected. If no methodological efforts are undertaken now to catch up with the technological advancements, survey research will miss the opportunity to make use of the wireless communication technology. This would lead to a situation were European survey research could not make use of the advancements just mentioned, and would fall back compared to other developed countries and regions. Some efforts regarding the questions mentioned in this paper have already been undertaken in Germany, the US, Switzerland, Slovenia and Finland, however, so far most activities are not related to each other and usually they are moderate in size. Considering the size of the tasks and projects mentioned above, joint efforts of several organizations are necessary, thus, making an integrated project the ideal frame for the activities described in this paper. An integrated approach including survey researcher form different European Countries is needed in order to combine their efforts into an integrated line of research.
Partners contributing to this expression of interest Marek Fuchs, Department of Sociology, CATI-Lab, University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany Gösta Forsman, Department of Mathematics, Linköping University, Sweden Vesa Kusela, Statistics Finland, Finland Charlotte Steeh, Applied Research Center, Georgia State University, USA Vasja, Vehovar, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia Additional tentative partners in a proposal for an integrated project Blaise-Team, Statistics Netherlands (providing software solutions) Market research companies doing telephone surveys and surveys using SMS services (experiments on the acceptance of non-voice mobile surveys) Survey research centers of universities (experimenting on sampling and coverage issues) European surveys and household panel studies (assessing improvement regarding coverage, non-response and measurement biases)