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CAREER: Empirical Studies of Technology Adoption

Jan 2013 to Dec 2017



National Science Foundation


This proposal aims to advance our understanding of technology adoption in developing countries. The proposed work will (a) enable and perform empirical tests of economic theory on three determinants of technology adoption—subsidies, financial access, and education—through a series of field experiments embedded in longitudinal data collection efforts; (b) enhance educational opportunities for students and educators interested in development; and (c) fill gaps in the knowledge base available to the practitioners who develop policies and programs to foster technological transition. The first research component will exploit randomized subsidy experiments in Ghana and Malawi, combined with innovation in measurements, to examine when and how subsidies for a new technology can foster learning about its effectiveness and trigger diffusion. Both demand-side and supply-side factors will be considered, in particular: how to target subsidies to those most likely to actually experiment with the new technology, and once a targeting scheme has been established, how to limit corruption and guarantee the subsidy reaches those it targets. The second research component will exploit randomized variation in access to financial products in Kenya, Malawi and Uganda to estimate how financial exclusion impedes technology adoption. Namely, does the fact that the great majority of the poor in rural Africa have limited ability to borrow and no formal means to save limit technology adoption? What financial products can boost their investments in technology and why does the market not provide them? The third research component will exploit the randomized assignment of education subsidies to youths in Ghana, combined with a 10-year panel dataset, to estimate the causal impact of secondary education on technology adoption and shed light on the pathways: does secondary education equip individuals with cognitive skills that are complementary with technology, does it enable them to hear about technology more easily, or does the effect of education on technology adoption operate primarily through an income effect? This research agenda embeds a comprehensive education plan aimed at disseminating the research findings and methods to policymakers from the developing world, enabling better understanding of and greater interest in development issues among high school and undergraduate students, and offering international research opportunities for college students and college graduates, as well as for graduate students wanting to study development issues.