Local Economic Impacts of Investments in Community Technology Centers: An Empirical Investigation (Dr. Krishna Jayakar & Jenna Grzeslo)
Project Description: Community technology centers (CTCs) have a long pedigree, both in the United States and abroad. Historically, their motivation was to extend information and communication technology (ICT) access and training services to communities and individuals deprived of such services because of low socioeconomic status or lack of digital literacy. Although community technology centers (CTCs) provide a host of services that may have economic consequences, few studies have attempted to empirically assess the impact of CTCs on local communities. Controlling for broadband availability and demographics, this study found that there is a small but positive and significant impact of CTC quality on median household income, at the county level. In addition to bridging the digital divide for disadvantaged populations, our research shows that there are also quantifiable economic benefits from CTC investments.
Is IT Enough? Evidence From a Natural Experiment in India's Agriculture Markets (Dr. Chris Parker)
Project Description: Access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as mobile phone networks is widely known to improve market efficiency. In this paper, we examine whether access to timely and accurate information provided through ICT applications has any additional impact. Using a detailed dataset from Reuters Market Light (RML), a text message service in India that provides daily price information to farmers, we find that this information reduces geographic price dispersion of crops in rural communities by as much as 5.2% (std. error 2.6%, p-value 4.5%), over and above access to mobile phone technology and other means of communication. To identify the effect of information on price dispersion we exploit a natural experiment where bulk text messages were banned unexpectedly across India for twelve days in 2010. We find that access to RML information has the highest impact in areas where RML has the largest number of subscribers. Also, the effect is largest for perishable crops. RML thus reduces the higher risk associated with high value perishable crops. We discuss implications for development organizations and for information providers.
Information Flow Empowers Vegetable Supply Chain in Chengdu (Dr. Bu Zhong)
Project Description: This ICT4D project introduces the optimization of information flows in local vegetable supply chain as a strategic tool for agricultural development, especially vegetable production, in Chengdu, China. The vegetable supply has been a challenge to Chengdu, China’s fourth largest city where 14 million people live. After analyzing the current information flows in the vegetable supply chain, an information hub is proposed to build up in Chengdu, providing information to local vegetable farmers and vendors such as sales data, inventory level, order status, sales forecast, production and delivery schedule. The date from the information hub should facilitate vegetable farmers and vendors to make SWOT analyses (evaluating the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). The information hub should assist them in identifying new information needs, which are not anticipated currently, such as information for forging alliances for collective benefits or monitoring systems for corrective measures. Dr. Zhong joins Dr. David Abler, professor agricultural economy in the College of Agriculture at Penn State to partner in this study.
If You Build It, Will They Come? Understanding the Information Needs of Users of BTOP Funded Broadband Internet Public Computer (Dr. Amit Schejter)
Project Description: As the Internet becomes an integral way by which individuals receive information, participate in civic activities, and conduct economic and social transactions, understanding barriers and opportunities of effective online use for traditionally marginalized communities becomes paramount. Our “Building Digital Bridges” research project in Pittsburgh seeks to aid broadband policy initiatives by revealing how inclusion of local social and cultural capital is integral in enabling effective use of broadband Internet. Graduate student Brandie Martin joins Dr. Schejter in this study.
In Machines We Trust: What Predicts the Success of Electronic Voting Machines in India (Dr. S. Shyam Sundar)
Project Description: Several underdeveloped nations in Asia and Africa are rapidly embracing information and communication technologies to automate processes, reduce human involvement and improve quality of life. For example, India is moving toward 100% diffusion of information technologies, such as the electronic voting machine, while more developed nations such as the US have not fully adopted them. However, the reverse is true for certain other technologies, such as the national identification number—while most Americans have embraced it, there is considerable opposition to its adoption in India. It appears that Indians mistrust the technology and the uses to which it can be put by the government (https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/05/growing-mistrust-india-biometric-id-scheme). While their endorsement of electronic voting machines is premised on a perception of reduced voter fraud and minimal human involvement in the electoral counting process, their misgivings about the national biometric ID scheme rest upon the technology’s potential to allow human misuse of the information. These two examples signal opposite attitudes toward technologies that collect, process and store individual information on a mass scale.
The goal of our research is to understand such contradictions by investigating the social and psychological factors underlying trust in information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the development context, with a specific focus on the theoretical mechanisms that predict trust in electronic voting machines and mistrust in unique identity cards. Drawing on MAIN Model, Technology Acceptance Model, Diffusion of Innovations Model and related theories from psychology (e.g., halo effect) and human-computer interaction (e.g., captology), this project seeks to identify key technological features, social factors and user attributes that predict trust in ICTs, using survey and field-experimental methods. In addition to advancing theory and knowledge about user perceptions of ICTs, our findings are expected to have practical implications for the design and deployment of ICTs on a large scale. The PI is S. Shyam Sundar, with Akshaya Sreenivasan serving as graduate researcher and Jianghanhan Li as undergraduate researcher.
- Crisis in Nigeria's Secondary Education as Communications Break Down (Dr. Anthony Olorunnisola)