Is the Phone Mightier than the Virus? Cell Phone Access and Epidemic Containment Efforts

54 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2020

See all articles by Robert M Gonzalez

Robert M Gonzalez

University of South Carolina - Moore School of Business - Department of Economics

Elisa M. Maffioli

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Health Management and Policy

Date Written: February 26, 2020

Abstract

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

Gonzalez, Robert M and Maffioli, Elisa M., Is the Phone Mightier than the Virus? Cell Phone Access and Epidemic Containment Efforts (February 26, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3548926 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3548926

Robert M Gonzalez

University of South Carolina - Moore School of Business - Department of Economics

Darla Moore School of Business
1014 Greene Street
Columbia, SC SC 29208
United States

Elisa M. Maffioli (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Health Management and Policy ( email )

109 Observatory
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029
United States

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