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CAVIA: Using Technology to Understand Communities’ Attitudes Toward Sexual Violence

Read the final Grand Challenges Canada Report on our pilot project using "CAVIA" (Computer Audio and Voice Interviewing Application) to explore communities' own attitudes toward victims of sexual violence in South Africa.


With the support of Grand Challenges Canada, AIDS-Free World created an original application called “CAVIA” (Computer Audio and Voice Interviewing Application) to facilitate the collection of responses from participants in diverse communities around the world. Grand Challenges Canada is funded by the Government of Canada and is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact in global health.

CAVIA combines audio computer-assisted self-interview technology with voice recording capacity. Using a battery-powered, interactive hand-held device, participants are able to respond to multiple-choice and open-ended questions in their own language, at their own pace, and without the bias or judgment of an interviewer. This vital tool was piloted by AIDS-Free World to help facilitate research and interventions around sexual violence that are affordable, fast, practical and far-reaching. 

The application can significantly reduce research costs, as CAVIA does not rely on having skilled interviewers, interpreters and data-entry personnel in place in order to capture responses to open-ended questions.  It allows individuals who are not literate or familiar with computers to participate in open-ended self-interviews, and automates the capture, preservation, analysis and compilation of multiple forms of data.

Pilot Testing CAVIA
We are completed a pilot study in South Africa to test the functionality, usability and effectiveness of the CAVIA application for conducting self-interviews. The pilot is took place at two sites in partnership with Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in Khayelitsha, Western Cape, and with Thoyoyandou Victim Empowerment Program (TVEP), in Thoyoyandou, Limpopo.

At each site, 50 diverse participants (selected using purposeful and snowball sampling for a mix of age, gender and occupation) conducted self-interviews using the CAVIA application. Since the CAVIA devices are portable, interviews were conducted in local languages, and at a location that was comfortable and convenient for each participant.

Pilot study participants answered a mix of multiple-choice and open-ended questions to elicit respondents’ opinions how their communities respond to incidents of sexual violence, and about the expected reactions to situations that occur in their communities. The surveys did not aim to elicit any personal experiences.  At each site, face-to-face evaluation interviews were conducted with 10 of the participants who used CAVIA to determine the usability and appropriateness of the CAVIA application as a self-interviewing tool.

Ethical approval for the study was provided by the University of Cape Town Human Research Ethics Committee, at the Faculty of Health Sciences (REF: 198/2014). Data from the interviews was transcribed and translated into English, and analyzed using a thematic approach to assess the accessibility of the CAVIA application for future projects.