Using Phone Surveys to Improve Public Service Delivery and Guide Crisis Response

Live via Zoom


Beneficiaries collect rations from a government shop during the covid-19 pandemic
Sanjoy Karmakar |

Regular program monitoring is critical for improving public service delivery and ensuring that benefits reach intended populations to improve their lives. However, in low- and middle-income countries, monitoring is often constrained by slow, indirect processes such as periodic government surveys as well as unrepresentative, sporadic data from government dashboards and grievance redressal systems. 

Research finds that directly calling program beneficiaries and collecting their feedback not only offers a cost-effective way to generate real-time data to improve program implementation but can also help motivate frontline workers to perform their duties more effectively. Increasingly, and particularly in the fast-changing context of the Covid-19 crisis, phone surveys are emerging as a means for service providers to collect regular, representative data, quickly identify gaps in relief activities, and deploy essential resources where required.

In this lecture-based webinar, researchers Gaurav Chiplunkar (University of Virginia, J-PAL invited researcher) and Kartik Srivastava (PhD candidate, Harvard University) will discuss the potential of phone surveys to build stronger, more responsive monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems, the versatility of their uses, and the operational and technical challenges that they pose.

Drawing from their experience using phone surveys to improve the last-mile delivery of public services, the speakers will present two case studies: using phone surveys to monitor the state of Telangana’s farmer income support scheme in a pre-pandemic setting, and leveraging phone surveys to guide the government’s real-time crisis response in Delhi after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This webinar is hosted by CLEAR/J-PAL South Asia as a part of the gLOCAL Evaluation Week 2021, a global M&E knowledge-sharing event convened by the Global Evaluation Initiative.


Gaurav Chiplunkar, associate professor, University of Virginia; J-PAL invited researcher
Gaurav Chiplunkar’s research examines the impact of labor market frictions on firms and workers, and how policy reforms and new technologies may help mitigate them. He also works with the Payments and Governance Research Program (PGRP) at J-PAL South Asia on governance and public service delivery.

Kartik Srivastava, PhD candidate, Harvard University
Kartik Srivastava’s research interests include development and labor economics, and political economy. Earlier, he worked at J-PAL South Asia with the Payments and Governance Research Program and then at the World Bank in Washington, DC. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Yale University.

Niharika Betkerur (Moderator), policy manager, J-PAL South Asia
Niharika Betkerur works with the Payments and Governance Research Program team at J-PAL South Asia. She also leads the work of the Political Economy and Governance sector at J-PAL South Asia.