Statistical Concepts, Methods and IT Applications

Telephony System for Surveys

As the national statistical authority, the Singapore Department of Statistics (DOS) is responsible for compiling, analyzing and disseminating economic and social statistics promptly to the general public. It is therefore imperative to review our statistical operations constantly to improve efficiency and productivity. One approach taken is by reducing labour-intensive tasks through computerization. With this objective in mind, DOS developed the Telephony System to expedite its survey processes. The system has been implemented in March 1999 for the Monthly Surveys of Retail Sales and Catering Trade. 

The aim of the Telephony System is to simplify procedures of contacting survey respondents using the telephone. This is useful for short-term surveys where the number of staff working on the project is small but the number of respondents surveyed is large. The system facilitates the work of DOS officers who have to call up the firms to remind them to submit the survey forms within a specified timeline or to obtain the survey data over the telephone before the close of each survey cycle. The Telephony System therefore helps to expedite the data collection process and improve data timeliness.

The Telephony System automates the dialling process through the use of modems. The contact numbers of survey companies/businesses are pre-recorded into the system, and are identified using the unique company/business registration number of each firm. To call up a particular firm, DOS officers need only to select any of the contact numbers listed under that company/business and then click on the "Dial" button. The line would then be put through automatically. The system also provides a "Notes" feature for the officers to record brief notes on their conversations with the firms.

The current system has only basic features and is primarily used for the auto-dialling function. DOS is presently looking into further enhancements to the Telephony System by incorporating other useful features. The enhancements include automated compilation of the Retail Sales and Catering Trade Indices, as well as an additional feature to track survey response rates. Given its generic and flexible nature, the enhanced system could also be modified for use in other similar short-term surveys.

Source : Statistics Singapore Newsletter, January 2000