use by respondents could reduce the number of field representative visits and associated field costs. The resultant savings could be used to fund worthwhile incentives to facilitate respondent participation. Through self-administration, interviewer effects would be minimized and data would be recorded on an ongoing basis, substantially reducing recall bias. Reliance on proxy reports could be reduced, as well. Since many people successfully use advanced self-administered applications on the Internet, adoption of a self-administered tablet data collection mode would not require large respondent training costs, especially if the data collection software were designed to be user-friendly.
These prototype designs would require an initial in-person visit from the field representative. The field representative would explain the survey, secure cooperation, deliver the tablet and demonstrate its use (i.e., train the respondent), explain the incentive structures, and answer questions. For some prototype designs, the field representative assists the respondent in self-administration of the initial survey module as a way of both collecting information and training on the tablet. The field representative would leave the tablet computer with the respondent, as well as a package in which to mail back the computer after data collection is completed. Self-administered data collection subsequent to the initial visit for the household would utilize the tablet to the greatest extent possible.
This approach adopts established, relatively current technology. The only assumptions made about future technology are that (1) the wireless phone infrastructure will continue to expand and become faster, and (2) tablet computers are a viable platform for the foreseeable future (i.e., the next 10 years). Development software must be adaptable to future platform changes, but that is not expected to pose a problem.
The tablet can be situated in the respondent’s kitchen or on the dining room table, accessible to any of the household members charged with entering data. To be user-friendly, it will need to have a fast boot-up protocol, and all CE applications will have to execute very quickly with self-evident interfaces. Respondent training is expected to be short and to focus on the task completion (i.e., content and entry of data), rather than navigating the technology.
The tablet would house only necessary applications including logon, encryption, connection to the server, and the electronic instrument itself. As data are entered, they are sent to the server in real time. Such a system requires that the tablet be “locked down.” That is, it cannot be used for any other applications and non-CES applications cannot be loaded onto it. The sole exception would be if a limited number of popular free game