Collecting Socioeconomic Agricultural Data Through Internet-Based Surveys and FGDs During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the conduct of traditional face-to-face methods in collecting socioeconomic agricultural data. The increasing internet connectivity and advancement of computer applications present alternative mechanisms for social research to continue through the collection of data from remote locations via internet-based platforms. However, there are concerns that these platforms offer a different environment and present challenges especially if survey respondents and interview participants are located in rural areas. Household surveys and focus group discussions (FGDs) in agricultural research, for example, are traditionally conducted face to face which allows personal interaction and building rapport between the researcher and the researched, which, in turn, contributes to collecting good quality data. Furthermore, the limited internet access of the rural population in developing countries such as the Philippines presents significant hurdles. In this study, we identify the different challenges, advantages, and disadvantages in conducting internet-based surveys through various modes such as Zoom, Facebook Messenger, and Google documents. We also assessed the conduct of internet-based FGDs through Facebook Messenger videoconferencing in a scenario where the participants are all in the same venue, but the facilitator is in a different venue and in another scenario in which the facilitator and participants are all in different venues. In this study, internet-based modes of surveys and FGDs are found to offer comparable environments with their face-to-face counterparts in conducting social research in rural communities and can only get better as communication technologies continue to advance in immediate future.

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