Liberation Technology: Mobile Phones and Political Mobilization in Africa

74 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2016

See all articles by Marco Manacorda

Marco Manacorda

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP); Queen Mary, University of London; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Andrea Tesei

Queen Mary University of London - School of Economics and Finance

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 19, 2016

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 georeferenced 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’ participation – 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.

Keywords: mobile phones, collective action, Africa, geo-referenced data

JEL Classification: D700, O550, L960

Suggested Citation

Manacorda, Marco and Tesei, Andrea, Liberation Technology: Mobile Phones and Political Mobilization in Africa (May 19, 2016). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 5904. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2795957

Marco Manacorda

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Queen Mary, University of London

Mile End Road
London, London E1 4NS
United Kingdom

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Andrea Tesei (Contact Author)

Queen Mary University of London - School of Economics and Finance ( email )

Lincoln's Inn Fields
Mile End Rd.
London, E1 4NS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://andreatesei.com

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