Publication - Project Report
Social welfare programmes in developing countries are infamous for poor administration and leakages from the distribution networks. Large swathes of benefits often do not reach the intended beneficiaries. This project focuses on a state-driven, technology-enabled reform and shows that information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be harnessed to improve existing public delivery systems.
We investigate the statewide roll-out of Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) introduced in Bihar, India on the functioning of the mid-day meal (MDM) programme. The programme entitles each enrolled child to a meal on the school premises each school day. It currently benefits 120 million primary school children, making it one of the largest school feeding programmes in the world. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that this programme is fraught with corruption and inefficiencies. A key challenge faced by the top tier programme administrators is that they have to rely on the take-up estimates provided by the mid-level delivery system to determine the future allocations and performance of the programme. Such estimates are often non-verifiable and leave room for rigging the statistics, syphoning off from the system, and inaction by the middle tier monitors. Therefore, improving information flow from the bottom to the top tier of administration might be effective in the implementation of the program. To this end, the state of Bihar introduced in 2012 a fully automated platform that calls school teachers every day to record whether the school provided meals to the students.
In addition to effects on the provision of the midday meals we also investigate the effects of IVRS on learning and health outcomes.