In-person vs. mobile business training, what works better for women entrepreneurs in Ethiopia?

Last registered on October 02, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

In-person vs. mobile business training, what works better for women entrepreneurs in Ethiopia?
Initial registration date
April 11, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
April 13, 2023, 4:36 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
October 02, 2023, 11:07 AM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.


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Primary Investigator

World Bank

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
World Bank

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
This study compares the effects of in-person vs. mobile business training on the performance of women entrepreneurs in Ethiopia. A group of 2,000 women entrepreneurs based in Addis Ababa and who are interested in business training are randomized to receive access to either a business app adapted to the Ethiopian context (1000 women), an in-person business training covering the same material than the app (500 women), or a control group (500 women). To simulate the interaction offered by in-person training, half of women offered the app (500 women) are encouraged to participate in virtual chat rooms to discuss their progress as they use the app. All women are invited to information sessions where they are provided help in downloading the app if selected. In a second experiment we test whether sharing the app virtually without the need of a first in-person interaction can achieve similar effects.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Cassidy, Rachel and Diego Ubfal. 2023. "In-person vs. mobile business training, what works better for women entrepreneurs in Ethiopia?." AEA RCT Registry. October 02.
Experimental Details


This project will offer three interventions: an e-learning entrepreneurship app for smartphones, virtual interaction in chat rooms for half of those assigned to receive the app, and in-person business training covering the same content as the app.

The e-learning app has been developed by an international company which is a pioneer in mobile learning. The app is based on material used in preparatory courses for MBA programs, which has been adapted to the needs of Ethiopian women business-owners. The content of the app aims to fill a gap at the higher end of business education, with a focus on slightly more advanced learning for successful entrepreneurs in comparison to the material offered by ‘traditional’ training courses. One distinctive feature of the app is a ‘gamified’, interactive experience that has the user work through a series of small problems rather than retain information from video lectures or readings. This interactive, gamified, feature might help motivate participation and reduce the risks of low usage (see Lafortune et al. 2022 for an RCT testing a gamified e-learning entrepreneurship program for students in Rwandan schools).

The networking intervention will be offered to a random set of women who get access to the app. They will be invited to participate in Telegram groups of 25 training participants (mimicking the standard group size of in-person training) and smaller groups of 5 training participants (mimicking small-group exercises within in-person training). To foster interaction, each week a moderator will send a motivation question across all groups related to the material covered in the modules of the app. This will be the only role of the moderator, in order to make the intervention as cheap and scalable as possible.

Finally, the in-person training has been designed by a local training provider with experience on business training. The course includes 6 weekly sessions, covering two modules per week, in central locations in Addis Ababa, in groups of 25 participants. The material follows closely the modules discussed in the app.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Business outcomes (profits, sales, business survival, business ownership)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Business inputs (labor, capital), business practices, gender attitudes and agency
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
This project conducts a randomized controlled trial to measure the effects of an e-learning app for women entrepreneurs and compare it with in-person training including similar content. The phone-based application contains the materials of an international course designed to help women business owners expand their business. Its content has been customized to the local context faced by women entrepreneurs in Ethiopia. To test whether the lack of peer interaction due to the individual nature of this form of digital training limits its effect, a second group of women is invited to interact in online chat rooms as they use the app. This online interaction can add pressure or motivation to use the app and is similar in spirit to inviting women to attend classroom-based training with a friend, which had positive effects on encouraging the incorporation of training knowledge in other contexts (Field et al 2016). A third group is offered an in-person training, which was designed by a local training provider based on the material included in the app. The experiment will compare the effect of these interventions (i.e., app, app with networking, and in-person training) against a control group of women not offered any of these interventions, but who will be given the option to use the app at the end of the study.

If sample size allows, a second experiment will test the effectiveness of a lower-cost version of the program. A group of additional 1,000 women who apply to the program will be randomized into two groups. One group of 500 women will be invited to attend information sessions and provided help in downloading and logging into the app. The second group will be shared the details on how to download and login to the app via SMS or Telegram without being invited to information sessions. The goal is to produce a cost-benefit analysis of the information sessions, which main goal in this case will be providing the help in downloading the app.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Public lottery (participants at information sessions draw balls from an urn to determine treatment assignment after completing the baseline survey)
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Main experiment: 2000 women. Second experiment: 1000 additional women, if study recruitment volumes allow.
Sample size: planned number of observations
Main experiment: 2000 women. Second experiment (tbc): 1000 women
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Main experiment: 500 app training, 500 app training plus networking groups, 500 face-to-face training, 500 control
Second experiment: 500 app training as per main experiment, 500 app without information session
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Health Media Lab
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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