The Equity tool and RapidPro

Jan. 9, 2018

Equity tool and RapidPro – Innovation meets innovation.

In many UNICEF country offices worldwide, innovations programmes are becoming a more common and desirable addition. To achieve results for children, our solutions to delivering more effective, scalable programmes must be constantly open to renewed invention and broader perspective.

Many countries have adopted RapidPro, to communicate with users and beneficiaries in different ways, from increasing the strength of programmes, to allowing a more accountable relationship to our users.

Enter the Equity tool

The Equity tool is another innovative way of measuring our populations and determining whether we are reaching the most marginalized and underrepresented users, by ranking populations of users from wealthiest to least wealthy. It is done in a discreet, non-invasive method by measuring indicators of wealth for the users through poverty benchmarks for wealth identification.

This tool isn’t a blunt instrument. At no point does it ever ask an individual about money or sensitive questions about their employment status or rank at their job. Instead, it measures the recipients’ surroundings in a way that is more disarming and less judgmental. A good example of a question within this tool is:  What is the roof of your home made from?

A series of these questions is then able to illustrate a fairly accurate representation of the respondents’ life without invasion into personally identifiable data. Results are provided as a number – 1 through 5 – representing each of the 5 wealth quintiles.  Quintile 1 is the poorest quintile, and quintile 5 is the wealthiest.  It should be noted that ranking populations into quintiles like this divides the countries entire population into 5 even groups such as below. However it is unlikely that your measured population will be evenly distributed between the quintiles.


The goal of RapidPro is to give young unheard individuals from the most disadvantaged regions a voice and UNICEF insight in to how best to deliver assistance. Ideally this would result in a distribution for a RapidPro deployment more similar to the below, provided the outreach methods have been targeting low income, marginalised groups.


To fully understand your target population, you need to apply a further level of context. To do so a program manager or researcher would need to know where RapidPro partners were conducting outreach. If the RapidProers come from a rural part of the country, the above result may not be remarkable. However, if they were in an urban area, then the outreach within the city is effective in reaching marginalized and poorer demographics.

How does information from the signal code affect RapidPro moving forward?

Using the Equity Tool is an excellent step toward better understanding your cohort of users, however to be effective it must be combined with an effort toward improving targeting of the most marginalized people. Conducting the Equity Tool with your usersshould raise questions for consideration such as: Are we conducting effective outreach? Do we need to change our approach to user targeting?

Let’s suppose your signal code returns a wealth distribution like below:


This would mean that you are typically only attracting users in the wealthier quintiles. While these voices also matter, ideally RapidPro is a tool aimed at targeting the most marginalized and disadvantaged. Some key questions raised about your outreach here would be:

Is our outreach method using tools that our target group do not have access to? i.e. a computer, urban institutions?

Is our outreach format in a way such that our target group cannot understand? i.e. local dialects ignored majority dialects preferred?
Do these results mean we need to diversify our targeted locations?

Another way the Equity Tool can improve our RapidPro Deployments is by discovering how our users are changing over time. Consider these Equity Tool distributions showing a single sample of users 4 years apart:


Here we see in the span of 4 years an increase of our population of the middle lower 2 quintiles and a reduction in our lowest quintile. This suggests that our population is slowly trending into more wealth. Some reasons for this might be that the transitions made by users into adulthood show an increase of income or relocation to a more developed region, while it is impossible to tell with only this data. The trend is indicative of an increase of standard of living for your users. Actions to take here might be to feed back to partners (gov or non gov) that this is an evidence based positive trend within their country – all made possible by the youth engagement platform, RapidPro. Likewise, if the opposite is discovered, it can be leveraged to show the gaps that need to be addressed for young people in the region.

So how do I load the equity tool onto RapidPro for my RapidPro platform?

Lucky for you between the team at Equity tool and Kalee McFadden all of the heavy lifting has been done.  Each country’s wealth identifiers are unique, therefore the questions that affect a reporter’s wealth quintile are typical to only that country.  The Equity tool currently exists for more than 40 countries, to view the countries and their individual metrics used for assessment go to

Now to assimilate the Equity Tool onto a RapidPro flow that contains the questions and quintile values is a bit harder. First you need to download the indicators from the Equity Tool Website.

Select your country and enter your details

Click ‘Other Platforms’ to get the Excel file for the data sheet. This contains the questions and assigned figures for each of the countries’ wealth indicators. For example, a reply of Yes for the question ‘Does your house have a refrigerator?’ may be worth 0.234036011 while No may be worth -0.028296255. these numbers are saved to the contact and added together to create a wealth indicator score. This number is compared to the limits for the quintiles of that country to determine which quintile the respondent fits into.

Eg. Respondent’s score: 0.128296255

National quintile limits:


Therefore this respondent is in the 3rd Quintile of their country.

To achieve this in RapidPro is straightforward if you fully understand how to use Contact Fields. Your send message becomes the survey question and your wait for response options become the potential response options and their values.

You will then need to update the field based on what you saved each question as. The above question was saved as ‘ownhouse’ so the contact field at the end of the survey would be:

Update contact field

Save to Field:



@(sum(flow.ownhouse.category + flow.question2name.category ….)

You then need to adjust this score to standardize it against the national quintiles these can be found on your downloaded spreadsheet.

You then need to split the user based on their aggregate score for the survey. To do this simply split the user based on their national score by the table of quintiles above saving them into categories 1 through 5 where 1 is the least wealthy and 5 is the most wealthy.