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Mobile financial services have become the main channel of financial inclusion, especially in low-income countries. However, consumer protection failures in the sector remain common. In Uganda, researchers partnered with the Uganda Communications Commission to conduct a phone-based survey among 1,000 users of mobile financial services to inquire about their experiences. In addition, they are leveraging access to mobile network operators’ customer care logs to test and implement new tools for analyzing complaints and resolving disputes.

This final report summarizes the key findings and recommendations from IPA's work with the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) analyzing consumer complaints records. A report summarizing the findings from the consumer survey can be found here.

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Report
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September 29, 2021
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In a collective effort bringing together 15 studies, researchers from over 30 institutions surveyed over 20,000 individuals between June 2020 and January 2021 on questions regarding respondents’ vaccine acceptance and hesitancy and their most trusted sources for vaccination advice. During some surveys, results from COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials had yet to be announced, and during later surveys, governments had started approving vaccines for use. The fast-moving nature of COVID-19 information may change people’s perceptions about vaccines by the time they are widely available in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Over the past six months, the body of evidence demonstrating the safety and efficacy of available COVID-19 vaccines, which have been given to millions of people, has become clearer. At the same time, severe, but rare, side effects may have undermined public confidence.

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Brief
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July 19, 2021
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Widespread acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines is crucial for achieving sufficient immunization coverage to end the global pandemic, yet few studies have investigated COVID-19 vaccination attitudes in lower-income countries, where large-scale vaccination is just beginning. We analyze COVID-19 vaccine acceptance across 15 survey samples covering 10 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in Asia, Africa and South America, Russia (an upper-middle-income country) and the United States, including a total of 44,260 individuals. We find considerably higher willingness to take a COVID-19 vaccine in our LMIC samples (mean 80.3%; median 78%; range 30.1 percentage points) compared with the United States (mean 64.6%) and Russia (mean 30.4%). Vaccine acceptance in LMICs is primarily explained by an interest in personal protection against COVID-19, while concern about side effects is the most common reason for hesitancy. Health workers are the most trusted sources of guidance about COVID-19 vaccines. Evidence from this sample of LMICs suggests that prioritizing vaccine distribution to the Global South should yield high returns in advancing global immunization coverage. Vaccination campaigns should focus on translating the high levels of stated acceptance into actual uptake. Messages highlighting vaccine efficacy and safety, delivered by healthcare workers, could be effective for addressing any remaining hesitancy in the analyzed LMICs.

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Published Paper
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July 16, 2021
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Helping the ultra-poor develop sustainable livelihoods is a global priority, but policymakers, practitioners, and funders are faced with competing ideas about the best way to reduce extreme poverty. Innovations for Poverty Action conducted a randomized evaluation to test the impacts of diverse components and variants of the Village Enterprise microenterprise program, an integrated poverty alleviation intervention that provides poor households with a combination of cash transfers, mentorship, business training, and support with the formation of savings groups, over a one-year period.

Key Findings

  • Village Enterprise’s microenterprise development program led to increased consumption, assets, and income, as well as improvements in nutrition and subjective well-being.
  • Cost-effectiveness appears high: researchers estimate a full cost recovery within three to four years.
  • A cost-equivalent cash transfer appeared to have less promising medium-term impacts on poverty reduction and subjective well-being than the microenterprise program, though estimates are more ambiguous.
  • Adding a light-touch behavior change component to the cash transfer changed the investment patterns of cash transfer recipients and improved subjective well-being somewhat, but cannot be characterized as a substitute for the much more heavy-touch training and mentorship interventions of the microenterprise program.
  • Overall, the results suggest that training and mentorship components of integrated poverty alleviation programs are sensible and cannot simply be removed (or substituted for cash transfers). But as they are complex, more research is needed on the issue of scaling them while maintaining their quality.
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April 20, 2021
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The Social Media Usage by Digital Finance Consumer Project is part of IPA’s Consumer Protection Research Initiative. The objective of the project is to deepen the understanding of the types of consumer protection problems experienced by digital finance consumers across three countries and types of financial providers. It consists of a social media listening tool tested on digital financial services in Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda, and will be used to inform potential further experimentation with consumer engagement and complaint handling via social media by regulators and civil society.

The digitization of financial services has been on the rise in the past years and has experienced a particularly big leap after the COVID-19 pandemic due to the temporary closure of physical offices and bank branches of many financial service providers. As financial services go digital, so do consumers by sharing their experiences, complaints and reviews through online channels and social media. Increasing use of social media channels to share feedback, concerns, and challenges provides new opportunities for insights into issues affecting digital consumers which can complement traditional methods such as phone or in-person consumer surveys.

To explore these opportunities, IPA piloted a social media listening and analysis project for consumer protection monitoring in digital financial services. This project has been developed in collaboration with Citibeats, an Ethical AI platform analyzing unstructured text. The project collects historical data on consumer protection-relevant content published on Twitter, Facebook Public Pages and Google Play Store Reviews and analyzes it using Artificial Intelligence algorithms based on Natural Language Processing and semi-supervised machine learning. The analysis provides insights into the types of consumer protection issues faced by consumers across countries and financial providers, classified into four types: 1) Commercial Banks; 2) Telecommunication companies offering mobile money services; 3) Fintech start-ups mainly offering online lending products and payment methods; and 4) Microfinance institutions.

To learn more about the methodology and main findings of this project, click the "Download" button or the PDF preview image to the right to download the full report.

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April 07, 2021
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COVID-19 motivated a rapid shift to remote data collection. In addition to technical hurdles associated with computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI), survey implementation may require more comprehensive productivity management to ensure that samples are representative and that calls are made during different times of the day and days of the week, to ensure that individuals are not systematically excluded based on the schedules they keep (e.g. farmers or night-shift workers). IPA Uganda conducted a random digit dialing (RDD) survey on financial fraud with a completely virtual phone bank and protocols that specified extended call hours to ensure that a wide variety of respondents could be reached. To monitor performance effectively, the team integrated daily call time monitoring into high-frequency checks of survey data using the IPA-developed sctotimeuse Stata command.
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Phone Survey Methods Resource
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January 25, 2021

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