Texting from the Bush: Data Collection Using SMS Text Messaging in Areas of Low Network Coverage from Low-Literacy Providers

Joseph E. Perosky*, Michelle L. Munro, Jillian L. Kay, Aloysius Nyanplu, Garfee Williams, Pamela B. Andreatta, Jody R. Lori

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Mobile health technology, specifically Short Message Service (SMS), provides a low-cost medium to transmit data in real time. SMS has been used for data collection by highly literate and educated health care workers in low-resource countries; however, no previous studies have evaluated implementation of an SMS intervention by low-literacy providers. The Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare identified a lack of accurate data on the number of pregnancies from rural areas. To capture these data from 11 rural communities in Liberia, 66 low-literate traditional midwives and 15 high-literate certified midwives were trained to report data via SMS. Data were reported via a 9-digit code sent from Java-based mobile phones. Study aims included determining the following components of SMS transmission: success rate, accuracy, predictors of successful transmission, and acceptance. Success rate of SMS transmission was significantly higher for certified midwives than for traditional midwives. The error rate was significantly higher for traditional midwives than for certified midwives. Years of education was the only predictor of successful SMS transmission. Traditional midwives and certified midwives accepted the intervention, although certified midwives found it easier to use. Certified midwives performed significantly better than did traditional midwives. SMS texting interventions should be targeted to health care workers with higher rates of literacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1052-1059
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Health Communication
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2 Sep 2015
Externally publishedYes


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