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Review Development Economics - 2022 - Rathi - Pandemics and technology engagement New evidence from m%E2%80%90Health intervention.pdf (2.76 MB)

Pandemics & technology engagement: new evidence from m-Health intervention during Covid-19 in India

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-15, 20:39 authored by Sawan Rathi, Anindya S Chakrabarti, Chirantan ChatterjeeChirantan Chatterjee, Aparna Hegde
Information provision for social welfare via cheap technological media is now a widely available tool used by policy makers. Often, however, an ample supply of information does not translate into high consumption of information due to various frictions in demand, possibly stemming from pecuniary and non-pecuniary cost of engagement, along with institutional factors. We test this hypothesis in the Indian context using a unique dataset comprising two million call records of enrolled users of ARMMAN, a Mumbai-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) that sends timely informational calls to mobile phones of less privileged pregnant women. The strict lockdown induced by COVID-19 in India was an unexpected shock on engagement with m-Health technology, both in terms of reductions in market wages and increased time availability at home. Using a difference-in-differences design on unique calls tracked at user-time level with fine-grained time-stamps on calls, we find that during the lockdown period, the call durations increased by 1.53 percentage points. However, technology engagement behaviour exhibited demographic heterogeneity increasing relatively after the lockdown for women who had to borrow the phones vis-à-vis phone owners, for those enrolled in direct outreach programs vis-à-vis self-registered women, and for those who belonged to the low-income group vis-à-vis high-income group. These findings are robust with coarsened exact matching and with a placebo test for a 2017-2018 sample. Our results have policy implications around demand-side frictions for technology engagement in developing economies and maternal health.


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Review of Development Economics





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