DigiFI Request for Proposals

A man and women look at their mobile phones outside a shop in Kenya.

DigiFI Spring 2020 proposal deadline has closed

COVID-19 Off-Cycle Funding

Announcement: DigiFI is accepting off-cycle proposals for COVID-19 related research (cap of $250,000 per project). 

DigiFI is accepting off-cycle proposals for projects that will rapidly respond to policy needs in times of COVID-19 and/or make large contributions to informing policy responses to crises. We are only accepting submissions that use randomized evaluations i.e. either add-ons to existing RCTs or new RCTs that build on existing data. In the case of add-ons, the original evaluation need not be funded by a J-PAL initiative. Applications are open on a rolling basis and will be reviewed every couple of weeks. If a quicker response is required, please write to us and we get back to you as soon as possible.

This off-cycle call is open to J-PAL affiliates and invited researchers across all initiatives, as well as to African scholars. Funding is capped at $250,000 per project. The research topics should fall within the scope of DigiFI as laid out in the DigiFI framing paper, and can be in partnership with a government, private sector or NGO with a focus on sub Saharan Africa. We recommend exploring the benefits or costs of digitization in a time of crisis. The proposed methodology should, of course, not include any person-to-person physical interaction. Please direct any questions to [email protected]

Proposals for an off-cycle add-on to a full study or pilot funding consists of two stages:

Stage 1: Please fill out the pre-proposal form. We will respond to that within 24 hours and let you know if you should submit a proposal.

Stage 2: On receiving a positive response to the pre-proposal form from the DigiFI team, please fill out the COVID-19 J-PAL Initiative Off-Cycle Application Form. We anticipate fast turnaround times and will aim to respond to your proposal within 48-72 hours.

Overview of RFP process

Submission deadline

The DigiFI 2nd call for proposal (Spring 2020) has closed

Research funding opportunities

For this round of grants, DigiFI Africa is accepting the following categories of proposals: Proposal Development grants (up to $10'000), Pilot studies (up to $75'000), and Full-Scale RCTs (up to $400'000). 

Research agenda

DigiFI aims to fill this evidence gap by funding cutting edge research projects focused on the study of innovative government, private sector, and NGO payment systems and ID reforms. The landscape of these themes is outlined in the DigiFI Africa framing paper. 


J-PAL affiliates, J-PAL postdocs, and DigiFI Africa invited researchers are eligible to apply for any type of DigiFI Africa funding. 

Resident African Scholars, who are based at an African academic institution based in Sub-Saharan Africa and who are outside of the eligible J-PAL network stated above, are eligible to initially apply for Proposal Development Grants and Pilot Grants. 

In addition, for this funding round, we are expanding our proposal development and pilot funding opportunities to non-resident African Scholars. Non-resident African scholars are those who have completed high school in Africa, have completed their PhD, and are based in an academic institution outside of Africa. Targeted mentorship will be provided to the resident and non-resident African Scholars who receive funds from the Initiative. 

PhD students may be eligible to apply for proposal development grants or up to $75,000 in pilot or full-scale funding. To be eligible, PhD students must have a J-PAL affiliate or DigiFI Africa invited researcher on their thesis committee.

Please note that PhD students and African Scholars are not eligible to apply for off-cycle funding.

Geographic focus

The DigiFI Africa initiative spans Africa, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. DigiFI Africa network researchers are encouraged to submit proposals for research conducted in the focus region, in partnership with governments and local implementing organizations.


Please complete the application requirements included in overview and application documents, and email to [email protected]

I think I have a great idea, but I’m not sure if it fits or how interesting it would be to DigiFI. Could I have a call with someone from the DigiFI team?

YES! We encourage you to get in touch ([email protected]). We are always happy to talk more about your ideas and to think through the process with you.

What do you mean by “high frequency process monitoring”?

Government officials facing short-term political cycles may be reluctant to agree to full-fledged experiments or other large-scale studies that may not yield definitive results for one to three years. In these cases, we encourage research teams to work with the partner government to develop high-frequency monitoring systems or initial pilot studies to help select African governments track progress and challenges among a representative sample of targeted beneficiaries. The goals of the high frequency monitoring systems would include assessing efficacy of the status quo and/or changes implemented and systematically collecting ongoing  feedback and data to evaluate particular features of these systems. This may involve outbound call systems to assess whether beneficiaries receive benefits, how much time this took, whether beneficiaries faced any technical challenges, whether anyone requested a bribe, and so on. This could be complemented by analysis of the administration data of the scheme. Such process information can then be aggregated into dashboards for public sector administrators to use in monitoring progress on the ground. Data from these monitoring systems can then inform the design of the RCTs, while also building credibility and trust with the partner government.

What can DigiFI do in terms of staff support for our research in the initial stages of project development?

DigiFI staff can assist with the following:

  1. Connections to policymakers in priority countries as well as provide information on the RFP and framing paper priorities. 
  2. Upon request, support on policy outreach including: Initial meetings with policymakers, coordination with other projects, and at a later stage, sharing of results with memos, events and conference presentations. 
  3. Clarification on the Initiative’s research priorities and on eligibility for potential projects.

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