Pandemics & Technology Engagement: New Evidence from m-Health Intervention During COVID-19 in India
44 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2021 Last revised: 7 Jun 2022
Date Written: June 6, 2022
Information provision for social welfare via cheap technological media is now a widely available tool used by policy makers. Often, however, an ample supply of information does not translate into high consumption of information due to various frictions in demand, possibly stemming from pecuniary and non-pecuniary cost of engagement, along with institutional factors. We test this hypothesis in the Indian context using a unique dataset comprising two million call records of enrolled users of ARMMAN, a Mumbai-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) that sends timely informational calls to mobile phones of less privileged pregnant women. The strict lockdown induced by COVID-19 in India was an unexpected shock on engagement with m-Health technology, both in terms of reductions in market wages and increased time availability at home. Using a difference-in-differences design on unique calls tracked at user-time level with fine-grained time-stamps on calls, we find that during the lockdown period, the call durations increased by 1.53 percentage points. However, technology engagement behaviour exhibited demographic heterogeneity increasing relatively after the lockdown for women who had to borrow the phones vis-à-vis phone owners, for those enrolled in direct outreach programs vis-à-vis self-registered women, and for those who belonged to the low-income group vis-à-vis high-income group. These findings are robust with coarsened exact matching and with a placebo test for a 2017-2018 sample. Our results have policy implications around demand-side frictions for technology engagement in developing economies and maternal health.
Note: Funding: Chatterjee acknowledges support of the Campbell and Edward Teller National Fellowship, the Visiting Fellow program at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and the ICICI Bank Chair in Strategic Management, IIM Ahmedabad.
Declaration of Interests: The paper was written in complete independence.
Ethics Approval Statement: Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval to use this data was received from the IRB committee of IIM Ahmedabad, and the approval number is IIMA IRB 2021-11.
Keywords: Technology Engagement, m-Health, Information Provision, Information Acquisition, Pandemic, Gender Distortions
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation