Is the Phone Mightier than the Virus? Cell Phone Access and Epidemic Containment Efforts
54 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2020
Date Written: February 26, 2020
This paper examines the impact of mobile phone access on the containment of an epidemic. Combining proprietary data on cellphone towers and disease cases during the 2014 Ebola epidemic in Liberia, we estimate a high-resolution radio-wave propagation model to predict signal strength. Comparing villages at the margin of the signal strength threshold required for coverage, we uncover a 10.8 percentage point reduction in the likelihood of a case in villages with coverage. Results from a novel survey collected following the epidemic suggest that this is mostly explained by cellphone access facilitating emergency care provision rather than improving access to information.
Keywords: Ebola Virus Disease, Mobile Phones, Technology, Information, Care
JEL Classification: I15, I18, O22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation