Despite substantial interest in the potential for mobile money to
positively impact the lives of the poor, little empirical evidence exists
to substantiate these claims. In this paper, Blumenstock, Callen and Ghani (2015) present the results
of a field experiment in Afghanistan that was designed to increase
adoption of mobile money, and determine if such adoption led to
measurable changes in the lives of the adopters. The specific intervention
the authors evaluate is a mobile salary payment program, in which
a random subset of individuals of a large firm were transitioned into
receiving their regular salaries in mobile money rather than in cash.
They separately analyze the impact of this transition on both the
employer and the individual employees. For the employer, there
were immediate and significant cost savings; in a dangerous physical
environment, they were able to effectively shift the costs of
managing their salary supply chain to the mobile phone operator.
For individual employees, however, the results were more ambiguous.
Individuals who were transitioned onto mobile salary payments
were more likely to use mobile money, and there is evidence
that these accounts were used to accumulate small balances that
may be indicative of savings. However, the authors find little consistent evidence
that mobile money had an immediate or significant impact
on several key indicators of individual wealth or well-being. Taken
together, these results suggest that while mobile salary payments
may increase the efficiency and transparency of traditional systems,
in the short run the benefits may be realized by those making the
payments, rather than by those receiving them.