There is a limited understanding of how access to formal financial services may have helped vulnerable populations cope with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Did formal savings help families cope with interruptions in employment? And, did digital remittances help mitigate the financial shocks of the pandemic?

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The growth of digital financial services has been accompanied by an increase in digital fraud. This raises certain questions: How can consumers effectively raise concerns and seek help? Can analyzing social media posts and customer support artificial conversations (chatbots) provide greater insight into consumers’ experiences and ways to prevent fraud?

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Illegal mining is prominent throughout the world but is rarely reported to authorities responsible for monitoring mining activities. In Colombia, Colombia Mining Monitoring (CoMiMo1) uses artificial intelligence and satellite technology to locate possible illegal mines.

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High fees and lack of pricing transparency may be a barrier to accessing financial services, especially for low-income and rural populations. In Nigeria, where access to financial services is lower than in neighboring countries, the Central Bank issued regulations to limit customer fees. However, anecdotal evidence suggests these regulations are not always followed.

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Millions of informal sector workers in low- and middle-income countries are excluded from formal pension and social security systems, posing potential economic challenges for old age populations. Micropensions may help to address these challenges—but more information is needed about the demand for these products.

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Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) represent an important source of employment in many low- and middle-income countries. Therefore, finding the most effective measures to help SMEs respond and recover when faced with economic crises, like those triggered by COVID-19, is of high policy relevance.

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Electoral irregularities—illegal activities seeking to influence elections—often threaten democratic institutions in low- and middle-income countries. In Colombia, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to measure the impact of an intervention that encouraged citizens to report irregularities to a local NGO and varied whether candidates were informed about the reporting campaign.

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As conflict forcibly displaces millions of people, social ties and trust across groups can disintegrate and be difficult to rebuild after violence subsides. Positive and cooperative intergroup contact has the potential to reduce prejudice and improve relationships with outgroup members. Researchers evaluated the impact of mixed Christian-Muslim soccer teams on social cohesion and interactions between these groups in an ISIS-affected area of Iraq.

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Democracy in many developing countries is undermined by the widespread provision of cash or goods for votes (i.e., vote buying). During the 2016 Ugandan elections, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation of an anti-vote-buying campaign to study voter behavior and electoral outcomes. While the campaign did not reduce the extent of vote buying, it had substantial effects on electoral outcomes.

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Citizen trust and participation in the political system are necessary for stable democratic regimes. During the 2013 National Elections in Kenya, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) sent text messages to approximately two million registered voters to promote public interest and knowledge and to raise voter turnout. Researchers found that the text message campaign increased voter turnout but decreased trust in the electoral commission.

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The typical firm in most low- and middle-income countries consists of a self-employed entrepreneur with no paid workers, raising questions about whether labor market barriers prevent firm owners from hiring additional labor. In Sri Lanka, researchers provided wage subsidies to randomly chosen microenterprises to determine if they would hire more workers, and whether the additional labor would benefit such firms.

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In low- and middle-income countries, women-owned enterprises are generally small in scale and provide limited income. Researchers evaluated the impact of a business training intervention, alone and combined with a cash grant, on the income and other business outcomes for self-employed women in Sri Lanka.

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Stunting negatively affects the health, development, and future incomes of affected children as well as that of their countries. Stunting remains a major problem in Zambia. In 2018, 35 percent of children under age 5 were stunted nationwide, with much higher rates in some regions.

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Money sent home by migrants working abroad is an important source of income, particularly in low and middle-income countries. How do pandemic closures and restrictions affect migrants' remittances? Researchers built on a previous study to conduct two rounds of phone surveys between Filipino migrants in the UAE and their families in the Philippines.

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Young people living in urban slums face several challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying lockouts. As part of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) study, researchers conducted three rounds of surveys among 780 adolescent boys and girls in three urban slums in Bangladesh. The results showed an increased involvement of out-of-school adolescents in paid work during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those from poor households.

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Many farmers in sub-Saharan Africa may be reluctant to adopt productivity-enhancing technologies because they lack persuasive information on the proper use of new inputs or agricultural techniques from credible sources. Researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to test whether the position of a trained lead farmer within a community’s social network affected other farmers’ decisions to adopt a new agricultural technology in Malawi.

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The extended closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic is having a negative impact on adolescents. As part of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) study, researchers conducted a panel survey (one round pre-pandemic, and two rounds during) among 2,000 students in Bangladesh to understand the differentiated impact of the pandemic on male and female adolescents.

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How can communities be encouraged to accept former members of violent extremist groups who demobilize from conflict and begin the process of reintegration? Working in communities affected by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, researchers examined whether messages from religious leaders—widely trusted in the region—could influence attitudes and intended behaviors, as well as shift perceived social norms, related to community support for the reintegration of former Boko Haram members.

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In low-income countries, the unmet need for family planning contributes to high rates of maternal and infant mortality. In Kenya, there are nearly 500 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and 37 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births. Despite the critical role of family planning service providers, many providers engage in negative behaviors that inhibit family planning use. Poor accountability may enable these negative behaviors.

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In recent years, the prevalence of predatory or fraudulent finance-related mobile applications has increased as mobile access and finance technology providers expand. Many consumers have fallen victim to such apps, in particular after the onset of COVID-19, which drove an increase in usage of digital financial services.

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