Google Research

SmartBrowse: Design and Evaluation of a Mobile Data Price Transparency Tool for Mobile Web Use

  • Nithya Sambasivan
  • Paul Lee
  • Greg Hecht
  • Paul M. Aoki
  • Maria-Ines Carrera
  • Jenny Chen
  • Michael Youssefmir
  • David Cohn
  • Pete Kruskall
  • Everett Wetchler
  • Astrid Twenebowa Larssen
Information Technology and International Development, vol. 11(1) (2015), pp. 21-40


Mobile data use is on the rise globally. In emerging regions, mobile data is particularly expensive and suffers from a lack of price and data usage transparency, which is needed to make informed decisions about Internet use. To measure and address this problem, we designed SmartBrowse, an Internet proxy system that (1) shows mobile data usage information and (2) provides controls to avoid overspending. In this article, we discuss the results of a 10-week study with SmartBrowse, involving 299 participants in Ghana. Half the users were given SmartBrowse, and the other half were given a regular Internet experience on the same mobile phone platform. Our ªndings suggest that, compared with the control group, using SmartBrowse led to (1) a signiªcant reduction in Internet credit spend and (2) increased online activity among SmartBrowse users, while (3) providing the same or better mobile Internet user experience. Additionally, SmartBrowse users who were prior mobile data non-users increased their web page views while spending less money than control users. Our discussion contributes to the understanding of how ICTD research with emerging technologies can empower mobile data users, in this case, through increased price and usage transparency.

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