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Information technologies and provision of national identificacion cards by the Bolivian Police: Evidence from two randomized natural field experiments


  • Alberto Chong

    () (Elliott School of International A airs, George Washington University)

  • Gustavo Machicado Salas

    () (Institute for Advanced Development Studies (INESAD))

  • Monica Yanez-Pagans

    () (Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network, The World Bank)


This paper investigates the potential of information technologies to improve public service delivery and empower citizens in the context of two unusual randomized natural experiments occurring within one particular bureaucratic process: the renewal of a national identification card by the Bolivian Police. The first experiment arises from the random assignment of both police officers and applicants to a manual or digital renewal process, which is identical in all aspects except that the digital renewal process makes use of information technologies as part of the renewal process. The second experiment arises by the existence of technical failures within the digital renewal process, which allows police officers to change from the digital to the manual renewal process randomly across renewal day. The efficiency of public service delivery is measured in terms of both renewal success rates (which average to a strikingly low rate of 72 percent in our sample) and time-it-takes to renew an identification card. The causal effect of information technologies on public service delivery is estimated using two different identification strategies. In the first one, applicant-police oficer pairs randomly assigned to each one of these two renewal processes are compared after controlling for renewal day fixed effects. In the second one, applicant-police officer pairs randomly assigned to the digital process are compared to those randomly assigned to this same process but who experienced a technical failure within the process, which allows to directly control for unobserved heterogeneity at the police officer level. We find that information technologies significantly improve the quality of public service delivery. Applicants randomly assigned to the digital renewal process are on average 12 percentage points more likely to complete the renewal process as compared to those randomly assigned to the manual one. Further, successful applicants randomly assigned to the digital process take on average 31 percent less time to complete the process as compared to those randomly assigned to the manual one. Lastly, we find that information technologies significantly lower barriers in access to national identification cards by promoting a more equitable provision across the population. We discuss several channels through which technologies might be improving efficiency and promoting equity within this particular bureaucratic process. Overall, our findings suggest that information technologies might be achieving these goals by introducing efficiencies (such as reducing administrative shortcomings and transaction costs), and limiting the exercise of discretion by police officers within the renewal process.

Suggested Citation

  • Alberto Chong & Gustavo Machicado Salas & Monica Yanez-Pagans, 2014. "Information technologies and provision of national identificacion cards by the Bolivian Police: Evidence from two randomized natural field experiments," Development Research Working Paper Series 02/2014, Institute for Advanced Development Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:adv:wpaper:201402

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jakob Svensson, 2003. "Who Must Pay Bribes and How Much? Evidence from a Cross Section of Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 207-230.
    2. Fisman, Raymond & Svensson, Jakob, 2007. "Are corruption and taxation really harmful to growth? Firm level evidence," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 63-75, May.
    3. Sequeira, Sandra & Djankov, Simeon, 2010. "An Empirical Study of Corruption in Ports," MPRA Paper 21791, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Benjamin A. Olken & Patrick Barron, 2009. "The Simple Economics of Extortion: Evidence from Trucking in Aceh," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(3), pages 417-452, June.
    5. W. Douglass Shaw, 1992. "Searching for the Opportunity Cost of an Individual's Time," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 68(1), pages 107-115.
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    More about this item


    Field experiments; government policy; human capital;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • O38 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Government Policy
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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