Social learning, 'online' versus in-person: Experimental Evidence from Indian Farmers

Last registered on May 19, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Social learning, 'online' versus in-person: Experimental Evidence from Indian Farmers
Initial registration date
June 24, 2021

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
June 25, 2021, 1:39 PM EDT

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

Last updated
May 19, 2022, 2:28 AM EDT

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


Primary Investigator

Cornell University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
With the advent of mobile phones and the internet in India, channels of information exchange have widened more than ever before. A by-product of this development has been the expansion of the ‘digital agriculture’ movement in various directions, one of them being smartphone agriculture. In this paper, I study the effects of farmer-Whatsapp groups on smartphone agriculture adoption rates. More specifically, by collecting data from a unique field experiment spanning 100 Indian villages, I test whether long-distant (online) connections lead to better diffusion and adoption of new agricultural technology by bridging farmers from disparate parts of a region. I randomly assign villages to two treatment interventions. In the first arm, I connect farmers on across-village moderated Whatsapp groups to facilitate online information sharing of farming practices. In the second arm, along with such Whatsapp groups we also simulate in-person connections by making the Whatsapp group participants meet physically to discuss several farming related topics over lunch. I then measure the differential effects of online farmer-interactions in these two types of groups. By facilitating online discussions on digital agriculture technology, and its benefits and challenges, I expect to see an increase in awareness and adoption rates of smartphone agriculture in both treatment groups. For villages with unfavorable baseline beliefs about smartphone agriculture, the treatment with both Whatsapp groups and in-person meetings is expected to have a greater effect on smartphone agriculture adoption rates than the only Whatsapp group treatment.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Sharma, Vanisha. 2022. "Social learning, 'online' versus in-person: Experimental Evidence from Indian Farmers." AEA RCT Registry. May 19.
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Experimental Details


The main goal is to connect farmers on social media groups to test traditional social learning and technology adoption theories in a new dimension of virtual interactions. We will test the influence of connecting farmers from different villages onto the same platform, a moderated Whatsapp group, to enable engagement in conversations about new technology. This influence will be compared to another treatment group, where farmers, before being added to the moderated Whatsapp group, will be offered to meet in-person with their Whatsapp peers- thereby simulating an in-person connection.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Smartphone agriculture technology adoption and usage: Are farmers more likely to adopt and engage in agriculture mobile phone applications if they are connected to other peers using these applications?

Learning from virtual vs in-person peers: Is learning different for farmers interacting on Whatsapp with virtual peers from other villages, or do virtual interactions with known farmers from the same village complement learning?
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Beliefs about the phone application- Do farmers update their baseline beliefs about smartphone agriculture after engaging in virtual interactions with their peers?

Crop loss due to pests: Does using a pest-diagnostic smartphone application reduce crop loss due to pests?
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We will create 2 treatment arms with across-village Whatsapp groups to enable farmer interaction about smartphone agriculture technologies. Sampled farmers from non-neighboring villages will be connected on a Whatsapp group in both arms. In one treatment group, other than the Whatsapp group, farmers will also be encouraged to meet their Whatsapp peers in-person on a monthly basis to simulate an in-person connection.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization will be conducted through the statistical software Stata.
Randomization Unit
This study uses a two-stage randomization method. First, 109 villages were randomly selected in the Chittoor district of India. Then within each village, a random sample of at least 10 farmers were surveyed.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
A total of 109 village clusters.
Sample size: planned number of observations
We plan to survey at least 1000 farmers, 10 per each village.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Approximately 30 clusters (villages) and at least 300 farmers per treatment arm (100 farmers per cluster), 1000 farmers in total.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Cornell IRB
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number