Running an interview & recruiting pilot - Digital Skills Observatory

After running our bootcamp in January, we went into the field to test our recruiting questionnaire and our first interview questions. Our goals were to:

  • Understand what it would be like to recruit 150 participants with our criteria, and how long it would take the field researchers to do so.
  • Run a couple of first interviews to see if our questions made sense, how long one interview would take and also to see if our data collection methods were sufficient.

This experience gives everyone an understanding of the scope of work required from the field researchers, the time it will take to conduct each interview, and the different challenges field researchers might encounter during their work.

Recruiting participants

To test our recruitment criteria and interview questions, we drove a few hours to a town outside of Nairobi called Wote. We wanted to see if we would be able to find first-time smartphone users between 18 and 35 years old who earn less than 5 USD per day.

However, recruiting participants is more challenging than anyone anticipated. Eventually, with significant help from the village authorities, we found some smartphone owners who had purchased their phones less than 2 months ago, and we split into groups to interview them. This was the most difficult part of our recruitment process, since our study is centered on new-smartphone users. We will need to rely more on similar help from the village authorities in the future.

Interview test

Over the next hour and a half, we tested our pilot interview questions. Very quickly, we learned that some of our questions were too repetitive or too precise. Sometimes the difference between Swahili and English caused problems in understanding, and sometimes our questions simply did not make sense in the context of participants’ experiences.

While deliberating the content of the questionnaire, our team came up with many questions focused on learning experience and technology. That combination of topics cropped up in ways we hadn’t expected during the interview—in conversation, or in answers to other questions—which made us start to rethink our questions.

This exercise is quite different from the ethnographic interviews with which we have experience at Mozilla. The goal and scope of this project forces us to think about interviews and data collection differently. Usually, we treat interviews as semi-flexible conversations with a set of questions and topics to cover, allowing us to be flexible and dive deep on specific subjects.

For this project, however, we will have to talk to 150 people in 5 different locations over the span of a year. This effort requires far more rigorous methodology and structure in our data collection processes, which is why our field researchers are equipped with tablets pre-loaded with questionnaires on which we will continually iterate.


This pilot experience was very insightful and allowed us to get a first glance at the shape of our study and the work that we will have to do to acquire satisfactory results. Now, we are going to spend some time revising our questions and interview details so that they become more fluid. We are excited for the first set of real interviews, and we’re looking forward to when we can build on and learn from the results.

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