Digital Information Provision and Behavior Change: Lessons from Six Experiments in East Africa
Mobile phone-based informational programs are widely used worldwide, though there is little consensus on how effective they are at changing behavior. We present causal evidence on the effects of six agricultural information programs delivered through text messages in Kenya and Rwanda. The programs shared similar objectives but were implemented by three different organizations and varied in content, design, and target population. With administrative outcome data for tens of thousands of farmers across all experiments, we are sufficiently powered to detect small effects in real input purchase choices. Combining the results of all experiments through a meta-analysis, we find that the odds ratio for following the recommendations is 1.22 (95% CI: 1.16, 1.29). We cannot reject that impacts are similar across experiments and for two different agricultural inputs. There is little evidence of message fatigue, but the effects diminish over time. Providing more granular information, supplementing the texts with in-person calls, or varying the messages’ framing did not significantly increase impacts, but message repetition had modest positive effects. While the overall effect sizes are small, the low cost of text messages can make these programs cost-effective.