Box 2: ICT interventions to improve service delivery

An IGC study in Paraguay highlights the potential power of combining ICT with the tacit knowledge of public officials. Dal Bo et al. (2018) randomised the distribution of cell phones to agricultural extension workers in Paraguay, allowing for regular updates on location, movement, and digitised reporting of activities to be sent to their managers. The ICT intervention improved service delivery. Farmers working with extension workers assigned with phones were 6% more likely to have received a visit. However, part of the experimental design was the use of supervisors’ knowledge of extension agents to determine which agents should get mobile phones. This allowed the researchers to measure the value of supervisors’ pre-existing information. It turns out that this information is valuable, and so interacts with the impact of the ICT intervention. Supervisors selected extension agents who were more likely to be more responsive to the monitoring technology, which had substantive impacts on the effects of the intervention when compared to randomly allocating the mobile phones.