This paper studies how learning through opinion leaders and social networks influences demand for non-traditional cookstoves – a technology with important health and environmental consequences in low-income countries. Specifically, we conduct field experiments in rural Bangladesh to assess how (1) learning the stove adoption choices of locally-identified “opinion leaders” and (2) learning about stoves through social networks each effect a household’s own cookstove adoption decisions. We find that both types of learning are more important for stoves with less evident benefits – and that households draw negative inferences about stoves through network members’ experience. Overall, our results suggest that external information and marketing campaigns can induce initial adoption and experiential learning about unfamiliar technologies, but sustained use ultimately requires that new technologies match local preferences.
Miller, G.; Mobarak, A.M. Learning about new technologies through opinion leaders and social networks: experimental evidence on non-traditional stoves in rural Bangladesh. (2013) 41 pp.