Pakistan floods: innovations and guidance for the response.

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Ready to go for live calls in Goma

The setting-up of our call centres has been ongoing for the past few months in both countries. The most time consuming part has been the recruitment of the operators; the two operators for each area office will be on board in early January. Training of the operators will take place during January, after which the much-anticipated first round of calls can finally start.

Before calls start, it is important to define how field teams will implement the project on a day-to-day basis. We’ve therefore drafted a guidance manual with colleagues that outlines the standard operating procedures for the project, the roles and responsibilities of staff involved in implementation, and answers to the most common questions, for example with regard to the distribution of mobile phones. The manual also describes the procedures for the management and payment of calls and provided further guidance to the area office staff on what needs to be done before the start of the surveys, and after each survey round has been completed. By availing the SOPs, all staff involved in the project are on the same page.

Just before the holidays, our Goma office received the 350 basic mobile phones that will be distributed to respondents in early January. As outlined in the SOPs, the phones will become the property of the respondents. Losses of phones are expected and are bound to happen. In these cases a number of extra phones and SIM cards are in Goma office (we have made allowance for 10% losses). In case of neglect or resale, the phones will not be replaced. As approximately one quarter of  respondents already have phones, we also have the ability to call respondents on the line they already have.


Goma: 350 mobile phones waiting for distribution at WFP’s office.

Setting up the interactive voice response system

Meanwhile, we’ve worked with our partner InSTEDD to install our IVR system, which will place automatic voice calls to mVAM respondents. All the equipment is available at WFP HQ in Rome and the team is busy configuring the set up with remote support from InSTEDD. Critical components include a laptop that runs Verboice, and a GSM modem that places the calls.

Verboice runs on a Linux operating system, while WFP is a Windows environment. We’ve therefore had to install a ‘virtual machine’ on our Windows laptops. InSTEDD have provided us with a virtual machine image that will be loaded onto the Windows laptop. We will then configure the laptop and modem combination. Some testing will be necessary to ensure that the system works properly before it is shipped to our area offices in DR Congo and Somalia. We plan to introduce IVR calls once our respondents have been familiarized with voice calls, which will take a few months.

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