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Reliable and efficient government is essential for delivering basic public services, promoting citizen participation, and achieving sustainable and equitable economic growth. Yet developing countries–particularly fragile and conflict-affected states-- often lack the institutions and human capital and needed to foster development.

Our Approach

CEGA researchers are exploring how low-functioning governance systems affect health, education, environment, finance, and other key development outcomes. We are also designing and testing new strategies to reduce conflict, strengthen public sector management, increase participation in the political process, and enhance the efficiency of public services. By partnering directly with governments and NGOs, and leveraging recent advances in Information & Communication Technology (ICT) for accountability, CEGA generates actionable insights that help states advance their own development.  

Economic Development and Institutions (EDI)

The Economic Development & Institutions (EDI) initiative aims to identify institutional reforms that can drive inclusive economic growth in developing countries. A core component of EDI is a portfolio of randomized controlled trials that test a set of key institutional reforms in partnership with governments and civil society groups in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. These studies will be linked together to draw a broader set of conclusions about government reform and growth. UKAid funds EDI through the Department of International Development, and the program is implemented in partnership with Oxford Policy Management, the Paris School of Economics, University of Namur, Aide à la Decision Economique, and CEGA.

In November 2016, EDI released a Request for Applications (RFA) to fund new research, seeking pilot applications (up to £22,000) and full-scale randomized controlled trials (no funding limit, but most awards up to £600,000) to rigorously test interventions or government programs that implement one or more of the following strategies to improve the performance of political or legal institutions and ultimately support economic development: 

  • Financial or non-financial incentives (e.g. to enhance performance or compliance, to encourage citizen engagement, etc.)
  • Access, sharing or distribution of information (e.g. to increase transparency, monitor performance, etc.)
  • Public official or employee selection (e.g. to improve recruitment, appointment, or election of bureaucrats, political leaders, and/or judicial officials)

To identify and inform these focus areas, CEGA reviewed the current state of knowledge on institutions and economic development to identify a series of open research questions in this “EDI Review Paper” co-authored by CEGA Scientific Directors Ernesto Dal Bó and Fred Finan. Applicants are strongly encouraged to review the portions of this document relevant to their proposed research prior to submitting proposals.

Find the RFA and materials here.

Research Highlights

Improving Governance through Biometric Authentication and Secure Payments 
In 2006, the Government of the state of Andhra Pradesh, India launched a pilot initiative to provide all adults with biometric "Smartcards," to ensure efficient and timely transfer of government benefits to the poor. Researchers exploited the randomized phase-in of the program to identify the impact of Smartcards on government efficiency as well as welfare of the program beneficiaries. Findings suggest that the Smartcard program reduced the time it took beneficiaries to receive payments, reduced theft and leakage, and increased beneficiary satisfaction.

Impact of Voter Knowledge Initiatives in Sierra Leone
In the run-up to the November 2012 elections in Sierra Leone, researchers tested a simple candidate debate intervention to increase voters’ knowledge and access to candidates. Citizens near a random sample of polling centers were shown video-recorded debates between rival candidates. Other polling centers provided information to individual voters, and a control group of centers received no services. This trial reveals how different kinds of information affect voter turnout and decision-making. 

The Role of Financial Incentives in Recruiting Public Sector Employees
Researchers have worked with the Mexican Regional Development Program (RDP) to study the recruitment of high-performing public employees. Working with the government agency, the researchers randomized both job advertisements and wages across candidate employees. Offering higher wages attracted individuals with higher previous earnings, a higher IQ, and more desirable personality traits. Higher wages did not attract a less publicly-motivated applicant pool.


Oxford Policy Management details how the Economic Development and Institutions (EDI) program will generate a set of coordinated randomized control trial (RCT) studies to find possible solutions for institutional reform.

​CEGA Research Fellow Kweku Opoku-Agyemang on efforts to curb corruption and bribery in Africa. 

Photo: Malawi Poll Workers, Malawi; Credit: Nicholas Obradovich.