Conduct Formative Research with Members of the Target Audiences

In focus groups and one-on-one interviews, it is possible to gain an understanding of the target audience’s mobile phone use and their preliminary reaction to the mHealth concept your program would like to develop. Further explore the questions about Technology Access & Mobile Use with members of the target audience, and observe how they interact with their mobile devices to validate assumptions or prior research.

The following are topics to explore when interviewing the intended end user:

  • Current perception of health issue: perceived challenges and opportunities as well as a possible range of solutions
  • Current technology knowledge, adoption, and use, and barriers to further uptake
  • Mobile phone ownership and costs associated with ownership
  • Associations and experiences with the mobile phone (for example, how does owning a mobile phone change your life?)
  • Mobile phone literacy and usage profile
  • If applicable: cultural and gender dynamics around the health issue (for example, is the husband the authority on the couple’s family planning use?) and/or mobile phone use (for example, it might be culturally inappropriate for a female to use a mobile phone outside of the home). A literature review published in the Journal for Equity in Health explores the impact of mHealth interventions on gender relations, providing insights about which issues might arise and where more research is needed. GSMA mWomen published a brief that provides a case example on the importance of including men in mHealth programs targeted to women. 
  • Reaction to mHealth solution: explore feasibility and acceptability, demonstrate product if possible, and observe usability (for example, if applicable, test example messaging).
  • If applicable, probe about willingness/ability to pay for mobile services.

The interview should be exploratory, applying principles of human-centered design. Human-centered design is based on the fundamental belief that gaining an in-depth understanding of the needs, hopes, and aspirations of the potential end users, the lives they live, and the environment they come from, will support the generation of more effective solutions. To learn more about the human-centered design process, refer to the online course, Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation, launched in 2013 by Acumen and (note: to access the course, you will need to set up an account).

For sample questionnaires for use in interviews with target audience members, please refer to GSMA’s mWomen Research Toolkit. The toolkit provides in-depth questions to explore gender dynamics and mobile phone use.