How Does First-Time Mobile Phone Access Affect Remote Communities?

Researchers: Arman Rezaee (UC Davis), Joshua Blumenstock (UC Berkeley), and Erin Troland (Treasury Department)
Location: Philippines

What are the net social and economic impacts of providing first-time mobile phone network access to previously disconnected communities? Researchers will use a randomized control trial which varies the timing of new cell phone tower installation in geographically isolated villages in the Philippines. 

We are interested in understanding how first-time access to a mobile phone network affects social and economic outcomes for individuals living in remote communities in the Philippines. We have the unique opportunity to study these questions using a randomized control trial in which we will experimentally vary the timing of installation of new community cellular networks (CCNs) in geographically isolated villages in the Philippines.

This  research design stands in contrast to prior related work, which has focused almost exclusively on the effect of mobile phones on agricultural markets, and which has relied on the (endogenous) market-driven expansion of mobile networks.

Progress

Over the past year, researchers have designed a randomized control trial in which the introduction of CCNs to several isolated fishing villages will be randomly staggered over time, to create exogenous variation in the timing of when each rural village is connected. A baseline survey of roughly 1,500 households was recently completed, and CCN installations are scheduled to begin soon.