Computer-Assisted Personal Interviews (CAPI)

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Computer-Assisted Personal Interviews(CAPI) is a face-to-face interview method where the interviewer uses a tablet, mobile phone or a computer to record answers given during the interview. There is a wide variety of CAPI software in the market which makes it easy even for someone with no programming experience to program a questionnaire for computer assisted interviews.

Read First

  • When programming a questionnaire in CAPI software, careful attention must be paid to a few things which is covered in the topic Questionnaire Programming.

When to use CAPI surveys

CAPI method has advantages and disadvantages when compared with the PAPI method of data collection. The advantages of the CAPI method are listed as follows:

  • The data can be validated during the interview leading to better quality data. Along with data validation, the data is also in electronic format which cuts down on the time and effort needed to digitize paper survey data and removes mistakes made when copying the data from paper to digital format.
  • Complex skips in the questionnaire can be programmed directly into the software, making the survey more efficient and accurate.
  • It is also a good tool to monitor enumerators. Since, the software can record start and end time and gps location of an interview automatically, supervisors can check if the interview team did actually conduct the interview or not by comparing that data to other interviews where a supervisor was present.

Even though CAPI surveys have benefits in terms of the data quality and management, PAPI methods are very useful in certain situations :

  • PAPI surveys are especially useful in interviews where a lot of comments/qualitative information needs to be taken. For example - qualitative surveys, survey pilot, etc
  • PAPI surveys provide a hard copy backup. CAPI data gets corrupted before it can be uploaded to a server, it is lost for ever.
  • PAPI surveys are useful in areas without good electricity or data connectivity. While this can be worked using battery packs and offline data storage during CAPI surveys, in some remote parts of the world, it is easier just to do a PAPI survey.
  • PAPI surveys are safer to conduct in crime-ridden areas as tablets/phone can be an easy target for thieves.
  • Some respondents are not comfortable during CAPI surveys due to concerns due to spying.
  • CAPI surveys require technologically competent enumerators or longer training periods for enumerators in cases which might be a problem in surveys done in emergency situations.

All these points should be carefully considered before deciding on the method of interview done for the survey.

CAPI Software

DIME most commonly uses SurveyCTO (based on Open Data Kit) for CAPI surveys, and a support team in place for technical assistance with SurveyCTO.

Other CAPI software commonly used in data collection is listed in the table below:

List of other CAPI software in alphabetical order
Name Developer Website
Blaise Statistics Netherlands
CSPro United States Census Bureau
Dooblo Dooblo Ltd., Israel
Open Data Kit(ODK) University of Washington's Department of Computer Science and Engineering
SurveyBe Economic Development Initiatives Limited, UK
SurveySolutions The World Bank

Choosing a CAPI software for your needs

When choosing a CAPI software, you should keep a few things in mind to make sure that you choose the best one for your project:

  • Data Capture = Does the CAPI Software you're going to choose capture all forms of data that you need i.e. text, numbers, pictures, audio, etc? Does it have the language support that you need to conduct multilingual surveys or record multilingual answers ?
  • Questionnaire Navigation = Is it easy to navigate through the questionnaire in the software? Can you perform the skips and loops that you need to do in your survey in the software ?
  • Data Quality Control = Does the CAPI software provide ways of controlling the quality of data(values within certain range, values with a required character, values without a certain character, etc)?
  • Data Management = Is the data output file from the CAPI Software compatible with the statistical tool you use to analyze datasets?
  • Case Management = How easy does the software make for management of tasks for various people in the hierarchy(team leaders, enumerators, etc) during a survey ?


For programming a survey for CAPI interviews, please read the page on questionnaire programming.

CAPI Hardware

Tablets to be used for CAPI interviews should meet the following specifications:

  • Wifi AND cellular connectivity (preferably to a network with widespread 4G coverage in country)
  • Front and back cameras (cheapest models have only front cameras; if you need pictures of anything this won’t work well)
  • Up-to-date android operating system (current fully-supported versions are marshmallow and nougat)
  • Size – depends on the complexity of the instrument. 7 inches is typically fine. However, if lots of tables, may make sense to go up to 10”. If very simple instrument, smaller screen (e.g. 3.5 inch will be fine)
  • 1GB memory. More if survey is particularly complex or multiple instruments.
  • Internal storage: only a concern if you plan to capture lots of photos, video or audio. If so, tablets with the capacity to use SD cards to expand available memory can help.
  • Screen: if you need to show videos or photos, may consider a HD screen. Otherwise no special consideration needed here.
  • GPS – should have GPS capacity. However, GPS is typically pretty poor (long time to lock on to a signal, accuracy of 10-15m). Bluetooth receivers (e.g. GlobalSat BT-821 Bluetooth GPS Receiver) can be a good way to enhance GPS capacity
  • Font and language requirements – if you’re working in a place with a non-Roman alphabet, make sure that’s supported

Back to Parent

This article is part of the topic Preparing for Data Collection

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