This paper investigates the potential of information technologies to improve public service delivery and empower citizens in the context of two unusual randomized natural experiments occurring within one particular bureaucratic process: the renewal of a national identication card by the Bolivian Police. The rst experiment arises from the random assignment of both police ocers and applicants to a manual or digital renewal process, which is identical in all aspects except that the digital renewal process makes use of information technologies as part of the renewal process.
The second experiment arises by the existence of technical failures within the digital renewal process, which allows police ocers to change from the digital to the manual renewal process randomly across renewal day. The eciency of public service delivery is measured in terms of both renewal success rates (which average to a strikingly low rate of 72 percent in our sample) and time-it-takes to renew an identication card. The causal eect of information technologies on public service delivery is estimated using two dierent identication strategies. In the rst one, applicant-police ocer pairs randomly assigned to each one of these two renewal processes are compared after controlling for renewal day xed eects. In the second one, applicant-police ocer pairs randomly assigned to the digital process are compared to those randomly assigned to this same process but who experienced a technical failure within the process, which allows to directly control for unobserved heterogeneity at the police ocer level. We nd that information technologies signicantly improve the quality of public service delivery.
Applicants randomly assigned to the digital renewal process are on average 12 percentage points more likely to complete the renewal process as compared to those randomly assigned to the manual one. Further, successful applicants randomly assigned to the digital process take on average 31 percent less time to complete the process as compared to those randomly assigned to the manual one. Lastly, we nd that information technologies signicantly lower barriers in access to national identication cards by promoting a more equitable provision across the population. We discuss several channels through which technologies might be improving eciency and promoting equity within this particular bureaucratic process. Overall, our ndings suggest that information technologies might be achieving these goals by introducing eciencies (such as reducing administrative shortcomings and transaction costs), and limiting the exercise of discretion by police ocers within the renewal process.