Mobile phone

Respondents fill in surveys via feature phones, receiving mobile credit as a reward

Credit: lirneasia on Flickr. Some rights reserved

In the run up to the announcement of a new pope, CNN wanted to gather the views of Africans to find out if they thought the continent was ready for an African pope.

CNN linked up with mobile phone crowdsourcing company Jana, which carries out research via mobile phones, paying people who contribute by giving them small amounts of mobile phone credit.

Jana received answers from 20,000 people in 11 countries in Africa, carrying out the research between last Thursday and this Monday by sending questionnaires via a web link in an SMS.

Most users have "low end feature phones" rather than smartphones or desktop computers, Nathan Eagle, the chief executive of Jana, told Many of the phones have a simple web browser, allowing people to click a link in the SMS to see a text-only web page and complete a survey.

This is the first time Jana has partnered with a media company and carried out editorial research. The start-up usually works with brands, such as P&G, Google and Unilever, who want to carry out market research in emerging markets. An example might be "people in sub-Saharan Africa receiving small denominations of air time for telling us the laundry detergent they prefer", Eagle explained.

Jana is active in 102 countries, Eagle said. The Jana website explains that the company works with 235 mobile operators giving the start-up the ability to send "air time" to more than 3.48 billion people.

Interestingly, the partnership between CNN and Jana only came about through a chance meeting between Eagle and Peter Bale, vice-president and general manager for digital at CNN International, the Mobile World Congress, which took place in Barcelona a fortnight ago.

Bale told "CNN is always looking at new ways to assess opinion and use technology to bring our audience fresh insights. Jana offers an innovative way to reach thousands of people quickly in emerging markets driven by mobile communications.
"In Africa, where CNN is the leading international news services, Jana is an ideal partner to quickly gauge opinion on the issues of the day. We decided the global interest in the Papal election and possibility of a non-European pope was a great way to experiment with Jana."

The story on CNN carries the findings, stating the research revealed that 80 per cent of Africans felt "their continent was ready for an African pope".

Jana conducted the poll between 7 and 11 March with mobile phone users from 11 nations: Lesotho, Rwanda, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria.

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