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ABC, 123: The Impact of a Mobile Phone Literacy Program on Educational Outcomes Jenny C. Aker, Christopher Ksoll and Travis J. Lybbert

Abstract
We report the results from a randomized evaluation of a mobile phone education program (Project ABC) in Niger, in which adult students learned how to use mobile phones as part of a literacy and numeracy class. Overall, students demonstrated substantial improvements in literacy and numeracy test scores, suggesting that the adult literacy curriculum is effective in increasing learning. Students in ABC (mobile phone literacy) villages showed substantial additional gains in numeracy exam scores, but we cannot rule out that there are no effects on literacy in the full sample. There is evidence of heterogeneity in program effects across regions, suggesting the impact is stronger in a relatively more densely populated region. Furthermore, both literacy and numeracy effects are stronger and statistically significant for younger populations. There is also evidence of persistent impacts: six months after the end of the first year of classes, students in ABC villages retained what they had learned better than the non-ABC students. These effects do not appear to be driven by differences in teacher quality or in teacher and student attendance. These results suggest that simple and relatively cheap information and communication technology can serve as an effective and sustainable learning tool for rural populations. JEL Codes: D1, I2, O1, O3 Keywords: education; literacy; information technology; program evaluation; Niger

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Working Paper 223 September 2010

ABC, 123: The Impact of a Mobile Phone Literacy Program on Educational Outcomes Jenny C. Aker Non-resident Fellow Center for Global Development Christopher Ksoll University of Oxford Travis J. Lybbert University of California-Davis Jenny C. Aker, Department of Economics and The Fletcher School, Tufts University, 160 Packard Avenue, Medford, MA 02155; Jenny.Aker@tufts.edu. Christopher Ksoll, CSAE, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UQ; christopher.ksoll@economics.ox.ac.uk . Travis J. Lybbert, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California-Davis. tlybbert@ucdavis.edu. We thank Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Niger for their cooperation and support in all stages of this project and would especially like to acknowledge the contributions of Ali Abdoulaye, Aichatou Bety, Saley Boukari, Scott Isbrandt, Mahamane Laouali Moussa, Ousseini Sountalma, Lisa Washington-Sow and the entire CRS/Niger staff, who conceived of and implemented this project. Kristy Bohling, Joshua Haynes and Rebecca Schutte provided excellent research assistant. We are grateful for financial support from the Blum Center for Developing Economies (UC-Berkeley), CITRIS, the University of Oxford, the Hitachi Foundation and the Gates Foundation. We would like to thank Maximilian Auffhammer, Michael Clemens, Edward Miguel, Sarah Baird and participants at seminars at the Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) at the University of Oxford, the University of Gottingen, and the German Economic Association’s Sixth Annual Research Committee on Development Economics Conference for their helpful comments and suggestions. All errors are our own. CGD is grateful for contributions from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Australian Agency for International Development in support of this work. Jenny C. Aker, Christopher KSoll, and Travis J. Lybbert. 2010 “ABC, 123: The Impact of a Mobile Phone Literacy Program on Educational Outcomes.” CGD Working Paper 223. Washington, D.C.: Center for Global Development. http://www.cgdev.org/content/ publications/detail/1424423

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