The Economic Impact of Mobile Phone Ownership

Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial in Tanzania

The study looks at causal impact of reducing the mobile gender gap. Leveraging one of the first large-scale experimental studies on women’s mobile phone ownership, we find that over thirteen months smartphones increased Tanzanian households annual consumption per capita by 20% (intention-to-treat effect) compared to control. Consumption gains operated through women participants’ control over and use of the smartphones. With a benefit-cost ratio of more than 2:1, this makes mobile technology among the most cost-effective individual anti-poverty interventions available. However, treatment effects were attenuated by handset turnover. By endline only 34% of those in the smartphone condition were still in possession of their smartphone. This highlights that mobile technology’s impact is not independent of the poverty trap and unequal social structures that constrain many low-income households.

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