Uptake of Mobile Money: Alternative Evaluations

Hello all,

My name is Eric Gelles, and I am a sophomore here at The College of William & Mary. This summer I will be traveling to Tanzania to assist with an ongoing experiment being conducting by Professor Philip Roessler testing the effects of mobile phone ownership on women’s empowerment. As part of the experiment, hundreds of women will be randomly assigned to receive either a mobile phone, cash of equal value to the phone, or will be in a control group. All of the women¬†will be given a surveyed at the beginning and at the end of the experiment, in an attempt to gain insight into how mobile phone ownership can impact women in developing countries.

Of special concern to the experiment is whether the participants adopt digital financial services, or “mobile money”. Mobile money¬†is sweeping through the developing world, as people are able to send money easily and access lines of credit. Although the women will be asked whether they use mobile money as part of the surveys, surveys are subject to certain biases, namely the social desirability bias, and are a problematic way to evaluate the impact of an experiment.

As an alternative way to measure whether the participants adopt mobile money, I will offer the women a small amount of money in cash (about 1 USD), or a slightly greater amount to be transferred to their mobile money account (about 1.50 USD). If the participants tend to prefer the money in cash, it would suggest that they have not successfully adopted mobile money services.

I will also conduct in depth interviews with a small subset of women in the study who have received cell phones, with help from field assistants from the organization REPOA. By conducting in depth interviews, I hope to confirm the presence of processes that would otherwise be difficult to measure, such as whether remittances received through mobile money have been helpful in weathering financial crises.

Finally, I aim to interview mobile money providers to gain insight into the profile of a typical female mobile money user. Specifically, I plan ask about marketing practices geared towards women, and whether the providers collect data on their consumers.

I look forward to keeping everybody updated on the experiment and evaluations.