It Takes Two: Experimental Evidence on the Determinants of Technology Diffusion

December 01, 2016
4:15 pm - 5:45 pm


International Affairs Building 1101

Event Type: 

Development Workshop: Morgan Hardy


Previous studies of peer-to-peer technology diffusion have primarily focused on the decision of potential adopters. Equally relevant for observed diffusion in many contexts is the willingness of incumbent adopters to actively share technology. We report the results of a field experiment that considers both parties involved in the diffusion process. Specifically, we develop a new weaving technique and randomly seed both training and a limited number of one-time technique-specific contracts in a real network of garment making firm owners in Ghana. We find that firms that need the technology to complete the contract learn it from firms that received training; however, firms selected to receive only training and no contract offer are much less likely to share the technology than those selected to receive both. We document spillover effects in both learning and teaching from baseline technology sharing contacts, but also find that networks display dynamic properties: a large number of firm owners generate new technology sharing contacts in response to the experiment. Teaching patterns to both pre-existing connections and new contacts follow the overall pattern, in which firms selected to receive both training and experimental demand are most likely to share the technology. We interpret these findings as evidence that experimental competition disincentivized diffusion, which we support with additional evidence exploiting random order size and order timing. Finally, we develop a model which conceptualizes observed diffusion patterns as endogenously resulting from both static dyad-specific and dynamic technology-specific costs and benefits to both the potential learner and the potential teacher.

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