Is Information Power? Using Mobile Phones and Free Newspapers During an Election in Mozambique

59 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2013

See all articles by Jenny C. Aker

Jenny C. Aker

Tufts University - The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; Center for Global Development

Paul Collier

University of Oxford - Blavatnik School of Government

Pedro C. Vicente

New University of Lisbon - Nova School of Business and Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 19, 2013

Abstract

Incumbent politicians in African countries have been cementing their positions in recent elections. That was the case of the Mozambican election of 2009, where the ruling party secured 75 percent of the vote, amid low participation and clear challenges of political accountability. We conducted a field experiment implemented nationwide based on three interventions providing information to voters and calling for their participation in the elections: an SMS civic education campaign centered on the elections, an SMS hotline to which citizens were able to report electoral misconduct, and the distribution of a free newspaper door-to-door focusing on voter education. We measure the effects of these treatments by looking at official electoral results, a behavioral measure of political participation, reports by electoral observers, and surveys. We find a clear positive effect of all treatments on voter turnout, close to five percentage points. Some treatments benefited incumbents. We also have evidence that the distribution of the free newspaper led to more accountability-based participation and to a decrease in the incidence of electoral problems. All treatments increased information but caused diverse effects on perceptions about politics.

Keywords: voter education, political economy, cell phones, newspapers, randomized experiment, field experiment, Mozambique, Africa

JEL Classification: D72, O55, P16

Suggested Citation

Aker, Jenny C. and Collier, Paul and Vicente, Pedro C., Is Information Power? Using Mobile Phones and Free Newspapers During an Election in Mozambique (June 19, 2013). Center for Global Development Working Paper No. 328, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2364162 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2364162

Jenny C. Aker (Contact Author)

Tufts University - The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

Center for Global Development ( email )

2055 L St. NW
5th floor
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Paul Collier

University of Oxford - Blavatnik School of Government ( email )

10 Merton St
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4JJ
United Kingdom

Pedro C. Vicente

New University of Lisbon - Nova School of Business and Economics ( email )

Campus de Campolide
Lisbon, 1099-032
Portugal

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