Helping users understand their rights and entitlements is often pitched as key to improving service delivery. Likewise, it is sometimes argued that openly publishing information on the performance of public services can encourage political actors to commit to addressing persistent problems of underperformance. Nevertheless, the evidence on the relationship between information, user demand, and political incentives, is inconsistent. Research suggests information may be a necessary but not sufficient condition for better services.
Khemani, S. (2007). Can Information Campaigns Overcome Political Obstacles to Serving the Poor? In S. Devarajan & I. Widlund (Eds.), The Politics of Service Delivery in Democracies – Better Access for the Poor. Stockholm: Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Using information to empower citizens to hold public agents accountable is an area of growing interest. But significant gaps in knowledge and experience remain. Local information campaigns designed to generate local participation cannot have sustainable or large-scale impact on public services unless they change the incentives of politicians.
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Banerjee, A. et al. (2006). Can Information Campaigns Spark Local Participation and Improve Outcomes? A Study of Primary Education in Uttar Pradesh, India (Policy Research Working Paper 3967). Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
What role can local community participation in basic service delivery play in promoting development outcomes? This paper considers the participation of Village Education Committees (VECs) in improving primary education services in Uttar Pradesh, India. It reports findings from a survey of public schools, households and VEC members on the state of education services and the extent of community participation in delivering such services. Findings suggest that local participation might be constrained by lack of information regarding VECs and that substantial apathy exists towards education as an area for public action.
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Keefer, P., & Khemani, S. (2011). Mass Media and Public Services: The Effect of Radio Access on Public Education in Benin (Policy Research Working Paper WPS 5559), Washington, D.C: World Bank.
Does radio access improve public service provision? And if so, does it do so by increasing government accountability to citizens, or by persuading households to take advantage of publicly-provided services? Using data from Benin, this paper finds that literacy rates among school children are higher in villages exposed to signals from a larger number of community radio stations. However, government inputs into village schools and household knowledge of government education policies are no different in villages with greater access to community radio than in other villages. Instead, households with greater access are more likely to make financial investments in the education of their children.
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Banerji, A., Duflo, E., Imbert, C., & Pande, R. (2013). An impact evaluation of information disclosure on elected representatives’ performance: evidence from rural and urban India (3ie Impact Evaluation Report 11). New Delhi: 3ie.
This study evaluates the impact of two pre-election voter education campaigns (PEVACs) on civic participation, public service provision and elected legislator performance in two regions of India. In Rajasthan, the PEVAC weakened the incumbent and widened and changed the pool of candidates. In Delhi, a report card had an impact on the councillors as they directed more spending towards slum relevant categories and less was spent on roads, materials and ‘trucking’. However, a second set of report cards had no significant impacts on toilet infrastructure and prices charged. Overall, information provision can play a role in reducing information asymmetries between politicians and their constituents and in improving service delivery.
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