Jenny C. Aker

Field Projects

I am currently working on a number of field projects. Many of these are impact evaluations — a type of evaluation whereby in which we work closely with development agencies, practitioners and the private sector in order to better understand the most effective strategies for reducing poverty.  Much of this research is related to the impact of mobile phone technology on development outcomes, such as adult education, agriculture, social protection and financial inclusion.

Here are some of the main projects I am involved in at the moment, all in collaboration with NGOs, international organizations and the private sector:

Digital Provision of Cash Transfers: An Evaluation of Give Directly’s Programs in Liberia and Malawi (with Jon Robinson, UC-Santa Cruz, Shilpa Agarwal, Indian School of Business and Alan Spearot, UC-Santa Cruz).  Does the provision of cash transfers via mobile phone improve households’ consumption-smoothing and investment decisions? Why or why not?

Let it Rain: Adoption of Rainwater Harvesting Techniques in Niger (with Kelsey Jack, UC-Santa Barbara).  What are the constraints to adoption of micro-catchment techniques in Sahelian countries?

Mobile Monitoring and Pedagogy in Niger (with the Ministry of Education in Tchadoua, Niger). How does digital technology help with teacher monitoring and pedagogical support?

Cowpeas, Credit and Storage in Niger (with Brian Dillon, Cornell University).  What are the barriers to the adoption of a cowpea storage technology (hermetically sealed bags) in Niger?  And how can addressing supply and demand-side factors create a new market?

Prior projects (2009-2017)

ABC2 in Niger.(with Christopher Ksoll and Catholic Relief Services). How do adult education interventions affect adults’ learning, self-esteem and educational investments in children? And does the ABC model have similar learning results once scaled up?

Kichabi in Tanzania.(with Brian Dillon, Josh Blumenstock and Adalbertus Kamanzi). Can a mobile phone directory for agricultural firms reduce farmers’ information costs and improve agricultural outcomes?

Mobile Money and Savings in Rwanda.(with Jessica Goldberg, Mercyline Kamande and Tigo/Rwanda). Can a mobile money product allow urban households to better achieve their savings goals?

Mobiles, Messages and Moutons in Niger (with Markus Goldstein, Michael O’Sullivan and Margaret McConnell). Can access to simple savings devices affect rural households’ savings and expenditures religious ceremonies in Niger?

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

Cell Ed Mobile Phone-Based Adult Education in Los Angeles and Niger. (with Christopher Ksoll, Susan Smalley and Can a mobile phone-based adult education program be successful in allowing illiterate populations to achieve basic numeracy and literacy?

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.