Research Projects 2017-18

Project Title: Improving Timely Immunization by Automating Workflow of Frontline Health Workers using Information and Communication Technology 

Area: Operations/Public Policy
Principal Investigators: Professor Sarang Deo and Professor Sisir Debnath
Abstract: The scarcity of personnel in government health facilities in India has reduced the quantity and quality of services offered by them. Despite the paucity of human resources, these workers spend a substantial amount of time to update utilization records, planning and coordinating healthcare sessions, reducing their availability to provide care. The introduction of technology-enabled platforms might be an  economically efficient substitute for such repetitive and time-consuming activities. Minimally skilled community health workers armed with information and communication technology (ICT) tools and customized applications that automate their work processes can be effective in bridging the gap between demand and supply for healthcare services. We propose to develop an integrated ICT platform that: (i) automatically generates the list of children due at each immunization session based on their date of birth, immunization history, and the recommended immunization schedule, (ii) sends targeted reminder phone calls to mothers/parents ahead of the scheduled immunization session, and (iii) creates real-time dashboards for senior healthcare administrators to ensure effective monitoring & supervision of the immunization program. We propose to assess the impact of this platform on the timeliness of immunization in a multi-arm randomized control trial and compare it with previously tested demand-side interventions such as text message reminders and incentives to parents. Finally, we also plan to elicit additional qualitative feedback from administrators and frontline health workers about the impact of the ICT platform on their productivity and job satisfaction.
Project Title: Household Assets, Liquidity and Financial Inclusion

Principal Investigators: Professor Prachi Deuskar and Professor Ashwini Chhatre
Abstract: How do households choose between liquidity and returns? A liquid asset can be converted into cash easily but may generate lower returns. Using the data collected by National Sample Survey Organization, for a representative sample of Indian households, we plan to examine a) if illiquid household assets yield different average returns than liquid ones, and b) how households of different characteristics choose liquidity composition of their asset portfolio. In examining the second question above, we will particularly investigate how financial inclusion –access to instruments of investment, credit and insurance – plays a role in alleviating the need of households to keep liquid, unproductive assets. The research intends to shed light on liquidity-return relationship for non-financial assets, risk mitigation strategies by the poor, and effects of financial inclusion on liquidity-return trade-off, synthesizing three strands of literature. The research would also help us anticipate how the new disruptive technologies intended to improve financial inclusion are likely to affect the portfolio choices of poor households.
Project Title: Third-Party Healthcare Insurance and the Pricing Puzzle

Area: Economics
Principal Investigators: Professor Tarun Jain and Professor Sisir Debnath
Abstract: The healthcare sector is undergoing a data revolution, with automation boosting the quantity and quality of data available to administrators. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are leaders in generating micro-data in the healthcare sector. Yet little research demonstrates how this data deluge can be used for managerial purposes. Our research will use administrative data from the state-run Aarogyasri program, which pays for poor citizens’ tertiary care, to answer an important managerial question - What is the right price for healthcare services? For policymakers, a key problem in single-payer insurance is the tendency of hospitals to over-treat patients if a procedure is profitable, especially if the hospital determines if the procedure is required. Overtreatment is potentially harmful both to patients’ health as well as the states’ finances, while profitable for hospitals. Using extremely detailed data on more than 3.1 million procedures under the program, we will examine how hospitals respond to increases in reimbursement rates. Thus, we will create tools to use administrative data to set healthcare prices, with applications to Aarogyasri as well as the national program enrolling 41 million households. Setting “right” prices might boost the government’s ability to finance healthcare for all, while retaining a large role for the private sector.
Project Title: Does Automation Help or Hurt Workers? A Country-Level Analysis of the Use of Robotics on Employment

Area: Strategy
Principal Investigators: Professor Amit Jain Chauradia (ISB)
Abstract: Firms are increasingly purchasing robots, defined as machines with artificial intelligence. These robots are more accurate, faster, and less costly (in the long-run) in their tasks compared to their counterpart: a human worker. Since robots are likely to displace workers for certain tasks, the key question is whether this is beneficial for society? Naturally, if robots are replacing workers, then the worker is unemployed. An increase in the unemployment rate, decreases the country’s GDP, and therefore robots are not beneficial for society. However, the counter-argument is that while robots displace workers for a particular task, it can create new jobs such as the management of the robots. In addition, the firm can focus on higher-order tasks that cannot be displaced by robots, such as negotiating more business from a client or launching a new product, which subsequently increases the firm’s growth and potentially creates more employment opportunities in the firm. These ideas would suggest that the use of robots increases overall employment in the country. To test our competing hypotheses, we propose to use a longitudinal dataset from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) that covers 50 countries from 1990 to 2017. We then plan to leverage this dataset to create a research agenda that can allow us to dig deeper into more important research questions related to robotics and employment and its impact on emerging markets.
Project Title: Natural Resource Allocation Mechanism and its impact on Rent Seeking: Evidence from India

Area: Finance
Principal Investigators: Professor Krishnamurthy Subramanian, Jefferson Kaduvinal Abraham, Yakshup Chopra, and Prasanna Tantri
Abstract: Natural resource curse is a well-accepted phenomenon in economics and public policy literature (Haber et al. 2011, Holder. 2006, F Van der Ploeg. 2011). Some of the well known explanations for the natural resource curse include among others the “Dutch disease”, weak institutional frameworks, weak or non-existent contract enforcement and corruption. There has been prior literature that links rent-seeking, particularly from natural resources and public infrastructure, to the quality or lack thereof of public institutions in resource rich developing economies (Andersen and Aslaksen 2008; Bhattacharyya and Hodler 2010; Lane and Tornell n.d.; Robinson, Torvik, and Verdier 2014; Tornell and Lanem Philip R. 1999). Discretionary distribution of natural resources and public infrastructure projects by the government to private players has been identified as one of the key mechanisms through which rents are appropriated (Tornell and Lanem Philip R. 1999). However lack of proper data and significant endogeneity concerns have limited the study of the natural resource curse and associated mechanisms. We utilize an exogenous event to evaluate whether a change in the mechanism of allocation of natural resources affects rent-seeking behaviour and associated outcomes. In addition to this we also study how the rents appropriated are tunnelled by such agents. Our work also adds to the strand of literature on the rents charged as a result of political connectedness in developing economy.