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Information, Education and Social Networks

Last registered on February 05, 2019


Trial Information

General Information

Information, Education and Social Networks
Initial registration date
January 31, 2019

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
February 05, 2019, 1:33 AM EST

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


Primary Investigator

University of Toronto

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Toronto
PI Affiliation
University of Warwick

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
We conducted a randomized experiment in which we provided Wikipedia access to secondary school students at boarding schools in Malawi. Malawi is one of the least developed countries in the world, yet internet is widely available on mobile phones. While many young Malawians have occasional or regular access to a mobile phone, access to a smart phone and the internet remain unaffordable. This is likely to change in the near future, in Malawi and across the developed world. The effects of a large increase in access to information for young African students is an important policy question. Investigating the impact of Wikipedia in particular is interesting for both theoretical and policy reasons. First, restricting internet access to Wikipedia allows us to isolate the impact of an information shock from the other resources available through internet access. Second, as a matter of education policy, schools may choose to provide students with some of the informational benefits of the internet without allowing unrestricted access. Wikipedia is a free and valuable resource, and may prove to be a useful educational tool. We will measure the impact of Wikipedia access on education outcomes, aspirations, internet literacy, time use, general knowledge and social network position.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Derksen, Laura, Catherine LeClerc and Pedro Souza. 2019. "Information, Education and Social Networks." AEA RCT Registry. February 05.
Former Citation
Derksen, Laura, Catherine LeClerc and Pedro Souza. 2019. "Information, Education and Social Networks." AEA RCT Registry. February 05.
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Experimental Details


We randomized access to Wikipedia in four government boarding schools in Malawi. In each school, we set up an internet library with 12 internet-enabled phones. Internet access was restricted to Wikipedia and Wiktionary. Students in the treatment group used the phones under the supervision of research staff referred to as digital librarians. The digital library was open during one school year, four days per week from 4pm-8pm and on weekends from 8am-4pm. No control group students were allowed into the mobile libraries.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Final grade in English and Biology
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
We will use endline grades in English and Biology, taken from administrative data. We will use term 3 grades for forms 2 and 3, and MSCE national exam grades for form 4 students (these students do not have a term 3 grade). We will standardize each grade by subtracting the mean within the school and form, and dividing by the control group standard deviation, again within the school and form.

English and Biology were chosen as primary outcomes for two reasons. First, these are core subjects, and we therefore expect to have data for most students. Second, we hypothesize that Wikipedia is a particularly good resource for these subjects, compared to other core subjects (Math, Physics and Chichewa). Wikipedia allows students to practice English comprehension. Biology students must learn a large volume of information, and are likely to benefit from information based study materials. Physics and Math, on the other hand, require students to practice skills for which information on Wikipedia might be less useful. Chichewa is a Malawian local language with little representation on Wikipedia.

Primary and secondary outcomes were chosen pre-analysis. These outcomes are identified in our pre-intervention ethics application (upon request).

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
We will investigate the following classes of secondary outcomes:
1. Other academic outcomes
2. Aspirations
3. Internet literacy
4. Student time use
5. General knowledge
6. Social network position: the effect of the intervention on the structure of social networks will be discussed in a separate paper
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The experiment took place in four boarding secondary schools in Malawi. The experiment involved students in forms (grade levels) 2, 3 and 4.

We interviewed all students in forms 2, 3 and 4 in the four schools at baseline and collected administrative data on baseline academic performance.

We randomized at the student level, and stratified on four key variables: school, form, grades and internet experience. The randomization assigned students to one of the three following groups: treatment (arm 1), control surveyed (arm 2) or control others (arm 0). Students in arm 1 have access to the digital library. Students in arms 1 and 2 are interviewed often (baseline, time use survey, endline A and endline B). Students in arm 0 are only interviewed for the baseline survey and a short version of the endline survey (endline A).

Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
We stratified on four key variables: school, form, grades and internet experience. The bin for grades is defined as above or below the median grade (within the school and form). We used the average of English and Biology grades (our two primary outcomes). We constructed a separate bin for students with missing grades data. Internet experience is defined as whether the student has ever used the internet. There are 51 stratification bins.

We randomized at the student level using the Stata command randtreat, seeded with the date of the randomization (2910). The randomization assigns students to one of the three following groups: treatment (arm 1), control surveyed (arm 2) or control others (arm 0).
Randomization Unit
Student (individual)
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
1508 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
301 students are in the treatment group (arm 1). 298 students are in the control surveyed group (arm 2). 909 students are in the control other group (arm 0).
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
A conservative calculation suggest that this sample size will allow us to detect a 0.15 SD increase in term grades with 80% statistical power. This calculation assumes a covariate-R2 of 0.6. Pilot data shows that previous term grades explain most of the variation in current term grades: R2=0.8.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of Toronto Research and Ethics Board – Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number