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Study Overview

A Tough Call: Understanding the Impact of Mobile Technology on Women's Work, Gender Gaps, Social Norms, and Misinformation
Study is 3ie funded:
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In 2018, in response to the digital gender divide, the government of Chhattisgarh (a state in central India), launched the ambitious SKY program, providing free smartphones to two million women in rural areas across the state who live in locations with more than 1,000 residents. With this new internet access, women may have better access to information that can improve individual well-being and promote productivity by enhancing market functioning and enabling value-added services such as mobile money, information provision, and reminders. However, better access to information & communication technologies also ushers a host of undesirable issues associated with health related misinformation, political participation, and mistrust in institutions. The “as good as random” nature of the eligibility criteria lends itself to continuity based identification methods, allowing us to evaluate causal impacts of the program. Specifically, we study the causal effect of smartphones on an array of outcomes related to health, social norms, labor market access, and political engagement, by comparing villages included in the SKY initiative to those not included.

Registration Citation:
Health, Nutrition, and Population
Information and Communications Technology
Additional Keywords:
Secondary ID Number(s):

Principal Investigator(s)

Name of First PI:
Aruj Shukla
University of Southern California
Name of Second PI:
Simone Schaner
University of Southern California

Study Sponsor

Study Sponsor Location:
United States

Research Partner

Name of Partner Institution:
Type of Organization:
Private firm

Intervention Overview


The intervention entailed the provision of free, internet-enabled smartphones (along with 1 GB of free data for the subsequent six months) to the female member of rural households in Chhattisgarh, India.

Theory of Change:

The distribution of smartphones and free data provision enabled first-time mobile Internet access across rural Chhattisgarh. Similar to the arrival of 2G and 3G in low-income settings, we theorize that access to internet via smartphones catalyzes changes in individual and household-level access to information, networks, markets and services. These changes likely affect decisions related to financial products and tools, jobs and migration. Our impact evaluation specifically focuses on how this theory of change functions for women when their access to information increases. We will examine SKY's gender targeted distribution poicy, which may have served as an important mechanism in closing a variety of gender gaps, both economic and social.


Multiple Treatment Arms Evaluated?

Implementing Agency

Name of Organization:
Government of Chhattisgarh
Type of Organization:
Public Sector, e.g. Government Agency or Ministry

Program Funder

Name of Organization:
Government of Chhattisgarh
Type of Organization:
Public Sector, e.g. Government Agency or Ministry

Intervention Timing

Intervention or Program Started at time of Registration?
Start Date:
End Date:
Evaluation Method

Evaluation Method Overview

Primary (or First) Evaluation Method:
Regression discontinuity
Other (not Listed) Method:
Additional Evaluation Method (If Any):
Other (specify)
Other (not Listed) Method:
Local Randomization approach

Method Details

Details of Evaluation Approach:

We rely on local randomization and regression discontinuity approaches to causally identify the effect of smartphone provision. Our identification strategy hinges on the assumption that gram panchayats are “as good as randomly assigned” within a chosen window around the population eligibility threshold. Comparing outcomes across gram panchayats that were included in the program to those that were not yields our desired causal effect.

Outcomes (Endpoints):

The outcome variables span families of outcomes such as health, social norms, labor & financial market access, and political engagement. These outcomes are outlined in further detail in the pre analysis plan attached.

Unit of Analysis:

The intervention may have affected a variety of individual, household and community-level variables in domains relevant to economic and social outcomes. These key hypotheses are listed below:

  1. Individual and gendered impacts of mobile internet:  With increased access to smartphones, we hypothesize that survey respondents will be better able to learn about job opportunities and connect with individuals and information relevant to income generation. Villagers may also access online platforms to learn a new skill useful to earning income (e.g., stitching). Mobile Internet access may also affect migration for work.
  2. Community level impacts of mobile internet: Beyond its impact on individual- and household-level outcomes, we hypothesize, the program may have shifted broader general equilibrium outcomes including prices and wages as information asymmetries were closed across locations.
  3. Health, Information, and coping during COVID-19: Pandemic impacts were mediated in part through access to information to prevent infection and spread, and encourage early vaccination. Yet misinformation about COVID-19 was widespread, driven in part through inaccurate social media posts. Based on these competing forces, we hypothesize that the infodemic of mis- and dis-information can result in poorer knowledge and behavior outcomes.
  4. Political Impacts of mobile internet: Our previous analysis from administrative data suggests a lower voter turnout as a result of the program. Furthering that line of inquiry, we hypothesize that a lower voter turnout reflects lower political engagement. Additionally, we aim to test whether mobile internet impacts trust in institutions, affective polarization, and propensity for collective action (eg. in the form of protests)
Unit of Intervention or Assignment:
Gram Panchayats
Number of Clusters in Sample:
Upto 687 clusters (gram panchayats)
Number of Individuals in Sample:
Up to 687*30 = 20,610 individual observations
Size of Treatment, Control, or Comparison Subsamples:
Treatment: 279 gram panchayats; Control: 408 gram panchayats
Change History for Size of Treatment, Control, or Comparison Subsamples
Changed On Previous Value
07/25/2023 Treatment: 408 gram panchayats; Control: 279 gram panchayats

Supplementary Files

Analysis Plan:
Other Documents:

Outcomes Data

We will use household surveys to capture a host of outcomes that are described earlier. Specifically, we will conduct in-person surveys of 15 men and 15 women per gram panchayat and limit attention to households that have at least one age-eligible woman. The questionnaire includes a comprehensive list of questions spanning the family of outcomes described earlier and in the pre analysis plan.
Data Already Collected?
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Data Obtained by the Study Researchers?
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Treatment Assignment Data

Participation or Assignment Information:
Data Obtained by the Study Researchers?
Data Previously Used?
Data Access:
Data Obtained by the Study Researchers?
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Approval Status:

Data Analysis

Data Analysis Status:

Study Materials

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Registration Category

Registration Category:
Prospective, Category 1: Data for measuring impacts have not been collected

Completion Overview

Intervention Completion Date:
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Unit of Analysis:
Clusters in Final Sample:
Total Observations in Final Sample:
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Preliminary Report:
Preliminary Report URL:
Summary of Findings:
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Data Availability

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Other Materials

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Description of Changes:

Study Stopped