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Development in the Americas (DIA)

IDB Flagship Publication

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  • Spanish version

Development Connections: Unveiling the Impact of New Information Technologies

Publication date: May 2011

Can information and communication technology contribute to economic development?

Policymakers and academics agree that computers, the Internet, mobile telephones and other information and communication technologies can be beneficial for economic and social development. But how strong is the impact? What conditions influence their effectiveness on development? The IDB took a bold step to apply strict statistical tools in a systematic way to evaluate how these technologies contributed to the success of several development projects in the region.


Working Papers

  • Empowering Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) with SMS: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Bogota
  • Abstract: This paper studied whether the use of short message service (SMS) technology effectively informed Bogota’s population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) about its eligibility to receive social benefits. Half of the sample population was randomly informed of their eligibility via SMS and their awareness of available benefits was estimated. On average, treated households are more aware of their rights; however, awareness varies across benefit type. The study recommends expanding the use of SMS as a policy instrument and as a means for empowering IDPs. Click here for more information.

  • Information Technology and Student Achievement: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Ecuador
  • Abstract: This paper studies the effects of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the school environment on educational achievement. To quantify these effects, the impact is evaluated of a project run by the municipality of Guayaquil, Ecuador, which provides computer-aided instruction in mathematics and language to students in primary schools. Using an experimental design, it is found that the program had a positive impact on mathematics test scores (about 0.30 of a standard deviation) and a negative but statistically insignificant effect on language test scores. The impact is heterogeneous and is much larger for those students at the top of the achievement distribution. Click here for more information.

  • The Coffee Crisis, Early Childhood Development, and Conditional Cash Transfers
  • Abstract: This paper examines the efficacy of three conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs in Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua in mitigating the potential negative effects of an income shock caused by falling prices of coffee, an important cash crop to many CCT participants. A theoretical household model is developed that demonstrates both the positive potential of CCTs to mitigate negative shocks effects on early childhood development and the negative potential of CCTs to exacerbate the impacts of a negative shock to early childhood development if the conditionality encourages households to shift resources from younger to older children to sustain their school attendance. The experimental design includes both CCT and non-CCT households and communities with and without coffee production. The paper finds that in Mexico the CCT mitigated the negative shock on child height-for-age z-scores, while in Nicaragua coffee-producing households who participated in CCTs saw greater declines in z-scores. Findings for Honduras are largely inconclusive. Click here for more information.

  • The Impact of ICT on Adolescents' Perceptions and Consumption of Substances
  • Abstract: This paper reports the results of a three-month randomized controlled trial to estimate the impact of an Internet and mobile telephone short message service (SMS) intervention on adolescents’ information about substances and rates of consumption. A low percentage of participants logged on to the Web platform, but most participants were reached through e-mails and SMS. It is found that the intervention was able to affect awareness that certain substances are drugs, but no significant changes in consumption habits were found. Click here for more information.

  • The Impact of ICT on Health Promotion: A Randomized Experiment with Diabetic Patients
  • Abstract: This paper summarizes a randomized experiment to study the effects of an Internet-based intervention on type 2 diabetes patients in Montevideo, Uruguay. A specially designed website and electronic social network allowed participants to navigate freely, download materials, and interact with other diabetics and specialists. No significant impact was found on participants` knowledge, behavior, or health outcomes. Only a minority of patients logged on to the website, and most were only reached by email and mobile text (SMS). Patients` gender, marital status, and education influenced their participation on the website. Click here for more information.

  • The Impact of ICT on Vegetable Farmers in Honduras
  • Abstract: Honduran farmers are at a disadvantage when dealing with intermediaries because they lack timely information about market prices. This paper first analyzes which information and communications technology (ICT) would be most suitable for sending price information to producers scattered throughout the country at a reasonable cost and in a sustainable way. Negotiations by two groups of farmers were compared: one to which market prices were not sent (control) and one to which prices were sent (treatment). A simple uninterrupted time series research design was used, followed by linear regression analysis and univariant analyses to determine the cases in which the treatment had an impact on farmers’ negotiations. Findings are reported, as well as recommendations and lessons learned. Click here for more information.

  • The Impact of Internet Banking on the Performance of Micro and Small Enterprises in Costa Rica: A Randomized Controlled Experiment
  • Abstract: This paper uses a randomized controlled experiment in Costa Rica to determine whether internet banking (IB) use by Banco Nacional de Desarrollo`s micro and small enterprise (MSE) clients impacts their performance, measured in terms of productivity, increase in sales, and cost reduction. Results from the intervention group surveys indicate that MSEs` use Internet sparsely in their daily operations because of limited access to computers and the relatively low penetration of Internet services in employees` activities. In addition, firms know little about the uses of the Internet as a business development tool. These results contrast with the benefits reported by a small group of firms. Those benefits include reduced costs, higher sales, and better contact with customers. Click here for more information.

  • The Impact of Receiving Price and Climate Information in the Agricultural Sector
  • Abstract: Previous studies indicate that Colombian farmers make production decisions based on informal sources of information, such as family and neighbors or tradition. In this paper we randomize recipients of price and weather information using text messages (SMS technology). We find that relative to those farmers who did not receive SMS information, the farmers who did were more likely to provide market price information, had a narrower dispersion in the expected price of their crops, and had a significant reduction in crop loss. Farmers also report that text messages provide useful information, especially in regards to sale prices. We do not find, however, a significant difference between the treated and untreated farmers in the actual sale price, nor changes in farmers’ revenues or household expenditures. Click here for more information.


  • TV reports and interviews:



Connecting the Displaced
May 18, 2011

  • Research experiments in the region:



Argentina (in Spanish)
March 2011

BLOG participation

Press releases


Alberto Chong, a Canadian and Peruvian citizen, received a Ph.D. in Economics from Cornell University. He was one of the principal research economists in the Research Department of the Inter-American Development Bank.


Viviane Azevedo, a national of Brazil, received a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and is a consultant in the Research Department of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Samuel Berlinski, a citizen of Argentina, received a Ph.D. in Economics at Oxford University and is a research economist in the Research Department of the Inter-American Development Bank, and is currently on leave from University College, London.

Cesar Bouillón, a Peruvian citizen, received a Ph.D. in Economics from Georgetown University and is a research economist in the Research Department of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Matías Busso, a citizen of Argentina, received a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He is currently a research economist in the Research Department of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Alison Cathles, a citizen of the United States, received an MPA from Cornell University. She is a consultant in the Science and Technology Division of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Gustavo Crespi, an Argentinean and Italian citizen, received a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Policy Studies from Sussex University. He is lead specialist in the Science and Technology Division of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Julian Cristiá, a citizen of Argentina, received a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Maryland at College Park. He is a research economist in the Research Department of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Arturo José Galindo, a citizen of Colombia, received a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. He is currently the regional economic advisor (a.i.) for the Andean Country Group at the Inter-American Development Bank.

Amanda Glassman, a US citizen, is Director of the Global Health Policy Program at the Center for Global Development and holds a M.Sc. from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Matteo Grazzi, an Italian citizen, received a Ph.D. in International Law and Economics from Universitá Bocconi. He is an Economist in the Science and Technology Division of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Gianmarco León, a Peruvian national, is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Cecilia de Mendoza, a citizen of the United States and Argentina, received an M.A. in Economics from Universidad Torcuato di Tella and is a consultant in the Research Department of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Mauricio Pinzón, a Colombian citizen, received an M.A. in Economics from Universidad de los Andes. He is a research assistant for the Financial and Private Sector Development Vice-Presidency of The World Bank Group.

Beniamino Savonitto, an Italian national, received an M.A. degree from Johns Hopkins University and is currently project director at Innovations for Poverty Action.

Eugenio Severín, a Chilean citizen, holds an MBA from Loyola College and a diploma in public policies in education from Universidad de Chile. He is a senior specialist in the Social Sectors Department of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Jeremy Shapiro, a citizen of the United States, received a Ph.D. in Economics from M.IT. and is currently a post-doctoral researcher in the department of economics at Yale University.

Previous editions of Development in the Americas (DIA):

Previous editions of the Economic and Social Progress Report (IPES):

  • 2008
    Outsiders? The Changing Patterns of Exclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean

    This report raises a number of fundamental questions about the multidimensional and interrelated nature of social exclusion and moves beyond the traditional emphasis on outcomes and groups to view exclusion as a process that results from societal traits that limit the functionings of the excluded.
  • 2007
    Living with Debt: How to Limit the Risks of Sovereign Finance

    This report analyzes the nature and evolution of sovereign debt in Latin America and discusses the policies that can be followed by countries and international financial institutions (IFIs) to reduce the vulnerabilities associated with it.
  • 2006
    The Politics of Policies

    Certain simple ideas can help to mobilize society, but they are rarely sufficient for understanding the processes of fundamental change. Sadly, there are no shortcuts to the Promised Land of sustainable development and prosperity for all.
  • 2005
    Unlocking Credit:
    The Quest for Deep and Stable Bank Lending

    Unfortunately, credit is scarce, expensive, and volatile. Without deep and stable credit markets, it will be very difficult for the region to achieve high and sustainable growth rates and combat poverty.
  • 2004
    Good Jobs Wanted: Labor Markets in Latin America

    Topics of the Report include the employer-worker dynamic, the new profile of the supply of labor, the impact of structural reforms, and the role of technology and institutions.
  • 2002
    Beyond Borders:
    The New Regionalism in Latin America

    It focuses on current subregional integration schemes, the new agenda launched in Doha for multilateral trade talks, regional initiatives, and interregional agreements between countries in the region and the European Union.
  • 2001
    Competitiveness: The Business of Growth

    This report provides guidelines to increase productivity and improve access by businesses to productive resources.
  • 2000
    Development Beyond Economics

    This report examines three entrenched structural factors -demography, geography and institutions- that are closely connected to economic and social development.
  • 1998-1999
    Facing Up to Inequality in Latin America

    Latin America in the 1990s remains the most unequal region in the world in terms of income distribution. Yet because of its changing demographics the region now has a unique window of opportunity to reduce the income gap by accelerating the development process, putting people to work, improving education, and saving for the future.
  • 1997
    Latin America After a Decade of Reforms

    This report examines the complex forces that have shaped the reform process and assesses the challenges ahead to sustain economic growth, prevent instability, improve income distribution, and foster participation in public decisionmaking.
  • 1996
    Making Social Services Work

    The 1996 Report on Economic and Social Report in Latin America interprets these macroeconomic developments in light of structural reforms implemented across the region over the past decade.

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