Jenny C. Aker

Field Projects

[This page describes ongoing field projects; for information on completed projects and theoretical research visit the research section.]

I am currently working on a number of field projects in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of these are impact evaluations — a type of evaluation whereby in which researchers work very closely with development agencies, practitioners and the private sector in order to determine what can work best and which approach is the most cost effective. These research projects try to answer the question, “Did the project achieve its aims?” but also, “Are these changes due to the project or to something else?” Many of these projects involve work with mobile phones and its impacts upon a variety of development outcomes, such as literacy, access to market information and agricultural and savings practices.

Here are some of the main projects I am involved in at the moment, all with and through field-based NGOs:

Mobiles, Messages and Moutons in Niger.. (with Markus Goldstein, Michael O’Sullivan and Margaret McConnell). How can access to simple savings devices and SMS message reminders affect rural households’ savings and expenditures in Niger?

The Long-Term Impacts of the ABC Program.. (with Christopher Ksoll). Do the short-term learning impacts of the ABC program persist three years after the program? Do these transfer into welfare gains?

Let it Reign: Adoption of Rainwater Harvesting Techniques in Niger.. What are the constraints to adoption of micro-catchment techniques in Sahelian countries? And how does the use of these water techniques affect farmer-herder conflicts in the Sahel?

Mobile Money Adoption and Savings in Ghana.(with Kimberley Wilson). How do simple interventions affect mobile money adoption in northern Ghana? And does mobile money adoption affect transfers and savings?

Cell Ed – Mobile Phone-Based Literacy for Migrant Populations in California. Based upon a mobile phone-enhanced education program in Niger, this project tests whether a mobile phone-based adult education program could be successful in allowing illiterate populations to achieve basic numeracy and literacy.

Prior projects (2009-2012)

Mobile phones and literacy in Niger (with Catholic Relief Services, Christopher Ksoll and Travis Lybbert). Known as Project ABC (Alphabetisation de Base par Cellulaire).

Mobile Phones and Cash Transfers in Niger (with Concern Worldwide). The introduction of mobile money transfer systems such as M-Pesa in Kenya has brought new opportunities for cash transfer and remittances in Africa. This project tests the effectiveness and efficiency of a mobile phone-based conditional cash transfer system as opposed to normal cash transfer systems in Tahoua, Niger.

Cash Transfers and Vouchers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (with Concern Worldwide). There has been considerable debate over the use of conditional versus unconditional cash transfers in developing countries. Yet a key question is how the additional disposable income is spent. A key issue in many countries is the introduction of voucher programs, whereby households can spend their transfer on a more limited range of items. This project tests the effectiveness and efficiency of cash transfers versus vouchers in Masisi, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Information, Civic Education and Elections in Mozambique (with Pedro Vicente, Paul Collier and Jornal @Verdade). How does access to information affect voters’ perceptions and electoral behavior? In this field experiment in Mozambique, we worked with Jornal @Verdade and local civil society institutions to provide civic education messages to voters through different mechanisms prior to the October 2009 presidential elections.