Friday, April 12, 2013

"Crowdsourcing Economics"

An interesting way to fund useful research... though on the other hand, given there's real commercial value for this research, you'd think there would other be viable alternatives (Freakonomics):

The typical household in rural Africa is “off the grid.” With no electricity, such households spend a significant fraction of their income on kerosene for lamps. Yet for about $20, they can buy a solar light, which provides a superior source of light and charges their cell phones. (Yes, cell phone use is common, even in rural households with no electricity; they simply walk to the nearest town and pay to charge their phones.) Given that the light pays for itself in about 6 weeks and lasts for about 3 years, purchasing one seems like a no-brainer. Yet few households have done so. These intrepid economists are trying to figure out why, and want to see whether the barriers to adoption can be overcome in a profitable way. In order to do so, they are running controlled experiments in rural Ugandan villages using various combinations of incentives and financing arrangements.

It’s a terrific and important research question. The only barrier is that they need funding for their research. So they’re trying something new: crowdfunding.

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