A high-frequency mobile phone data collection approach for research in social-environmental systems: Applications in climate variability and food security in sub-Saharan Africa

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Giroux, S.A., et al. (2019) “A high-frequency mobile phone data collection approach for research in social-environmental systems: Applications in climate variability and food security in sub-Saharan Africa”, Environmental Modeling & Software, doi:j.envsoft.2019.05.011.

Abstract:Collecting high-frequency social-environmental data about farming practices in sub-Saharan Africa can provide new insight into environmental changes that farmers face and how they respond within smallholder agro-ecosystems. Traditional data collection methods such as agricultural censuses are costly and not useful for understanding intra-annual and real-time decisions. Short-message service (SMS) has the potential to transform the nature of data collection in coupled social-ecological systems. We present a system for collecting, managing, and synthesizing weekly data from farmers, including data infrastructure for management of big and heterogeneous datasets; probabilistic data quality assessment tools; and visualization and analysis tools such as mapping and regression techniques. We discuss limitations of collecting social-environmental data via SMS and data integration challenges that arise when linking these data with other social and environmental data. In combination with high-frequency environmental data, such data will help ameliorate issues of scale mismatch and build resilience in environmental systems.

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