Incentive for Peer-to-Peer Information Sharing in Avaaj Otalo
32 Pages Posted: 18 May 2013 Last revised: 4 Aug 2013
Date Written: August 3, 2013
In a recent effort to facilitate the agricultural development in rural India, an innovative voice-based information service, Avaaj Otalo ("voice porch"), was launched by UC Berkeley, Stanford, IBM, and Development Support Center (DSC) in Gujarat, India. In this voice-based forum, participating farmers can raise questions, interact with others, and post answers to the existing list of questions. To understand the peer-to-peer interactions in this novel social media, we construct a stylized model in which a set of heterogeneous farmers are endowed with their initial production capabilities and can post questions in the Avaaj Otalo forum for help. A representative expert is hired by DSC to regularly monitor the forum and provide answers to the farmers' questions, but may be non-responsive sometimes due to the limited capacity. A knowledgeable core user (farmer) can choose to be silent or responsive, and is allowed to strategically determine the informativeness of her answers.
We show that in equilibrium the core user never provides answers that are more informative than the expert's, irrespective of her ex ante knowledge level. Redesigning or restructuring the Avaaj Otalo forum does not help eliminate this inefficient information provision. We also examine various tools DSC can use to influence the Avaaj Otalo's effectiveness. First, hiring more staff to frequently monitor the forum turns out to be detrimental for the peer-to-peer interactions. Second, improving the expert's knowledge has a non-trivial impact on the peer-to-peer information sharing. The competition on information sharing between DSC and the core user features strategic complementarity sometimes but strategic substitution at other times. Third, charging for Avaaj Otalo usage may discourage uninformative answers, but it could also discourage the core user from sharing information with other farmers.
Keywords: social media, information sharing, India agriculture, game theory
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