Researchers: Karthik Muralidharan, Paul Niehaus
This project will pilot a call center to enhance the ability to measure the impacts of a large-scale randomized controlled trial on cash transfers and food security in Bihar, India. The Bihar Cash Transfer project (implemented through the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab) is currently implementing and testing the impact of replacing in-kind food transfers via the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) with cash transfers in Bihar. The call center provides a mechanism to capture in real-time the impacts of competition (between the status quo benefit delivery mechanism and the cash alternative), communicate key program information to beneficiaries (e.g. food stamp prices, reminder calls about date of account opening, biometrics, and account card distribution) and to coach thousands of beneficiaries through the process of opening bank accounts – for most, their first formal bank accounts.
Progress has been made on two fronts:
1. Building software for the call center: Software is being built such that a simple user interface can be created for call center executives. We are partnering with an organization called Exotel and are customizing our requirements for the Customer Relationship Management interface.
2. Outbound communication: We are leveraging outbound communication to assist beneficiaries to enroll in biometrically linked bank accounts through which they can cash out their food coupons when they wish. About 80% of our sample has access to a mobile and we call beneficiaries frequently to understand progress they have made in the various stages (form submission, biometrics registration and card delivery) of account opening and aid them in completing this process.