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Liberation technology: mobile phones and politicalmobilization in Africa

Manacorda, Marco and Tesei, Andrea (2016) Liberation technology: mobile phones and politicalmobilization in Africa. CEP Discussion Paper (1419). Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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Abstract

Can digital information and communication technology (ICT) foster mass political mobilization? We use a novel geo-referenced dataset for the entire African continent between 1998 and 2012 on the coverage of mobile phone signal together with geo-referenced data from multiple sources on the occurrence of protests and on individual participation in protests to bring this argument to empirical scrutiny. We find that mobile phones are instrumental to mass mobilization during economic downturns, when reasons for grievance emerge and the cost of participation falls. Estimated effects are if anything larger once we use an instrumental variable approach that relies on differential trends in coverage across areas with different incidence of lightning strikes. The results are in line with insights from a network model with imperfect information and strategic complementarities in protest provision. Mobile phones make individuals more responsive to both changes in economic conditions - a mechanism that we ascribe to enhanced information - and to their neighbors’ articipation - a mechanism that we ascribe to enhanced coordination. Empirically both effects are at play, highlighting the channels through which digital ICT can alleviate the collective action problem.

Item Type: Monograph (Discussion Paper)
Official URL: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/
Additional Information: © 2016 The Authors
Divisions: Centre for Economic Performance
Subjects: T Technology > TJ Mechanical engineering and machinery
JEL classification: O - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth > O3 - Technological Change; Research and Development > O32 - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
O - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth > O4 - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity > O47 - Measurement of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output (Income) Convergence
Sets: Research centres and groups > Centre for Economic Performance (CEP)
Date Deposited: 10 May 2016 08:50
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2020 01:05
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/66436

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