The authors implement a randomized field experiment to test whether a text message-based ICT program – U-Bridge – improves local government monitoring, frontline service provider efforts, and availability of inputs in education, health, and water in Arua district, Uganda. Researchers first created clusters of villages around Arua’s 48 mid-level government health centers (the unit of randomization). Next, they randomly assigned half of those clusters to the treatment group and the remaining to control.
In the initial stage of the nationwide field experiment, the researchers held a series of public lotteries to select the Members of Parliament (MPs) who would be treated and receive access to the uSpeak system - a platform that allowed MPs to log onto a dashboard where they could read tagged SMS messages from constituents, reply, and see simple descriptive statistics about the messages they received, such as what the priority issues in their constituency were within a selected time-frame.
The experiment aimed to test hypotheses regarding underlying demand for mobile-based communication with one’s representatives in Parliament in Uganda, as well as the price effect on demand, and how both demand and price effects vary across social groups.