Selected Work in Progress
“Building Transparency and Trust in the Financial System with Voice Notifications” (with Erica Field, Rohini Pande, Natalia Rigol, and Charity Troyer Moore).
Status: Data collection completed. Analysis ongoing.
Abstract: The Government of India’s ambitious Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) scheme has opened over 226 million new bank accounts since its inception in August 2014, with the aim of drawing India’s unbanked rural poor into the formal financial system. Although this is an impressive achievement, many of these accounts are dormant, or are only used to receive government benefits. Thus, significant barriers to financial inclusion remain: Low financial literacy rates, especially among women, result in discomfort with new technologies used by last-mile banking kiosks, such as fingerprint readers. Moreover, banking kiosk operators often hold an informational monopoly on account details, as illiterate individuals cannot read transaction receipts. Hence, the rural poor still lack a transparent, verifiable, easily understood way to access information about account balances and the timing of direct deposit transfers. Given the deep mobile phone penetration in rural India and the fact that even low-literacy individuals regularly use the basic calling functions of mobile phones, can mobile technology facilitate access to and improve the quality of financial services for the rural poor? In this project, we will partner with a large public Indian bank to pilot an interactive voice response (IVR) system to give low-income, low-financial-literacy individuals information on account transactions and government benefits receipt. If the pilot is successful, we plan to scale the project to assess the impact of IVR notifications on bank account use, financial inclusion, and access to social protection benefits delivered via bank accounts.
AEA RCT Registry: click here
“Hold the Phone? Social and Economic Implications of Improving Women's Agency and Control over Smartphones” (with Giorgia Barboni, Erica Field, Rohini Pande, Natalia Rigol, and Charity Troyer Moore).
Status: In the field.
In 2018, the Indian state of Chhattisgarh distributed over 2 million smartphones to female heads of household. We build a randomized control trial on this phone distribution program to examine multiple research questions focused on gender gaps in technology use, the economic and social impacts of technology adoption, and norms related to women’s phone use. The RCT leverages three interventions to address the barriers to smartphone use that women face. The first is a basic digital training, designed to build skills women need to engage with phones. The second, a service titled Mor Awaaz, deploys a phone-based use case that is in line with the prevailing norm that women should care for the household. Women enrolled in the service receive weekly phone calls with entertaining, pre-recorded information on good health and nutrition practices and government social assistance programs. Once a month, we survey women on these topics. Additional treatment arms randomize the number of enrollees within villages to understand the role of peers in phone engagement and payment of in-kind incentives to individual enrollees to understand the value of amplifying the economic returns to phone use.
AEA RCT Registry: click here