Digital Information Provision and Behavior Change: Lessons from Six Experiments in East Africa
Raissa Fabregas, Michael Kremer, Matthew Lowes, Robert On, Giulia Zane
Mobile phone-based informational programs are popular worldwide, though there is little consensus on how effective they are at changing behavior. We present causal evidence on the effects of six mobile-based agricultural information programs implemented in Kenya and Rwanda. The programs shared similar objectives but were implemented by three different organizations and varied in content, design, and target population. With administrative outcome data for over 156,000 people across all experiments, we are sufficiently powered to detect small effects in real input purchase choices. Combining the results of all experiments through a meta-analysis, we find that the odds ratio for following the text-based recommendations is 1.20 (95% CI: 1.14, 1.26). We cannot reject similar effects across experiments and for different agricultural technologies. We do not find evidence of message fatigue or crowd-out of other inputs. The effects, however, seem to diminish over time. Providing more granular information, supplementing the texts with in-person calls, or varying the messages’ framing did not significantly increase impacts, but message repetition had a modest positive effect. While the overall effect sizes are small, the low cost of text messages can make these programs cost-effective.