Haiti – Can smartphones make schools better?

World Bank


In Haiti, World Bank researchers worked with the Ministry of Education to evaluate a pilot program to use digital technology to help keep track of teachers in school and enable more effective monitoring of schools. The plan was to use smartphones to take photos in school of teachers and send the photos to a central server that could be accessed by school inspectors and ministry officials. The problem was that implementing the program was difficult and compliance was low. In the end, there was no effect on teacher absenteeism or student learning, in part because of the problems getting the program up and running.

Researchers randomly assigned 200 public and private primary schools either to a control group or to participate in the program. In the 100 schools assigned to receive the program, directors received a smartphone with a built-in system that allowed them to send information about the school to a centralized server, including daily photographs of teachers to verify they were at work. School inspectors could access the server in real time for efficient supervision. Both the inspectors and the school directors received training from the research team and the cell phone company on how to use the phones and software.

Before the program began, the research team administered an Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) to a sample of 15 students at each school. As the program ended, the research team administered the EGRA to another random sample of students in all 200 schools. Researchers conducted an in-depth qualitiative study in a small sample of schools after the program ended, interviewing 37 teachers, 14 directions, and four inspectors about the operational challenges of the program and their perceptions of it.

The program faces technical challenges from the start, introducing delays and technical problems that made it hard to implement as planned. Once the program was launched, school officials reported difficulties using the new technology, despite having received training beforehand. In the end, very few schools actually used the program with any regularity. The technology seemed to have introduced additional problems, including a drop in inspections among schools that received the mobile technology. The program had no impact on either student learning or teacher absenteeism.


World Bank. (2015). Haiti – Can smartphones make schools better? (From Evidence to Policy note 102710). Washington, DC: World Bank.