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Study claims cell phone coverage increases organized violence in Africa


Duke University and German Institute of Global and Area Studies conducted a study on the effects of increased cell phone coverage in Africa. Their results were published in the American Political Science Review.

Abstract

The spread of cell phone technology across Africa has transforming effects on the economic and political sphere of the continent. In this paper, we investigate the impact of cell phone technology on violent collective action. We contend that the availability of cell phones as a communication technology allows political groups to overcome collective action problems more easily and improve in-group cooperation, and coordination. Utilizing novel, spatially disaggregated data on cell phone coverage and the location of organized violent events in Africa, we are able to show that the availability of cell phone coverage significantly and substantially increases the probability of violent conflict. Our findings hold across numerous different model specifications and robustness checks, including cross-sectional models, instrumental variable techniques, and panel data methods.

From JFK School of Government at Harvard…

Even when confounding variables such as income, inequality, ethnic fractionalization, geography are accounted for, increases in cell phone coverage are associated with higher levels of violence throughout Africa. When evaluated on an individual country level, the impact of cell phone coverage on conflict is also significant within each country.

Greater cell phone coverage leads to more conflict in “areas with structural conditions that favor violence” than those where the conditions do not favor violence; it “enables groups to overcome their collective action and coordination problems more easily, which translates to more organized conflict events.”

The authors conclude that “cell phones lead to a boost in the capacity of rebels to communicate and monitor in-group behavior, thus increasing in-group cooperation. Furthermore, cell phones allow for coordination of insurgent activity across geographically distant locations.”