Papers and Research


Bill Orme - Broadcasting in UN Blue: The Unexamined Past and Uncertain Future of Peacekeeping Radio
For almost two decades, United Nations peacekeeping missions have routinely set up local radio stations that almost immediately have become the dominant national broadcasters of those post-conflict countries. From Cambodia to Liberia, these UN stations have helped end violent conflict and make political transition possible. They have provided citizens with trusted local news programs and nonpartisan discussion forums, often for the first time. The UN radio stations were also often the first to reach all corners of these war-ravaged countries. In national elections after peacekeeping interventions, the UN stations were the main if not the only source of nonpartisan voter information and campaign coverage, crucial for any functioning democracy. And then, when the UN missions ended, the stations would abruptly close.
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Fabien Miard - Call for Power? Mobile phones as facilitators of political activism
This paper examines how mobile phones affect political activity. In a number of cases, the mobile phone as a uniquely easy-to-use and personal communication device has been portrayed as a key tool to facilitate mobilization and collective action, such as during the impeachment process of President Estrada of the Philippines in 2001. Taking some of these case studies as a starting point, I find a plausible theoretical framework for analysis in the literature on collective action theory, mobilization and diffusion theory, and network society theory, which I develop further to include the novel aspect of mobile telecommunications. Mobile teledensity data and three political activism indicators in over a hundred countries are then tested with negative binomial Poisson and ordinal logistic regression over a period of 16 years. The results do not support the observations of earlier case studies; I find no significant relationship between mobile teledensity and anti-government protests, riots, or major government crises.
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Fabien Miard - States vs. SMS: Does the rise of cheap mass-communication pose a threat to state leaders?
In the last decade, the world has witnessed very high telecommunications investments in almost every country. More than half of these investments in 2004 were made outside of the OECD (ITU 2006: 9). Why is this happening? Universal demand, falling costs and a profitable, competitive market appear to be the driving forces behind this phenomenon. At the same time, governments around the world seem to be inclined to let it happen, and often encourage investment in this sector. However, as often the case with new technology, there may be unintended consequences. It is commonly accepted that information and communication technologies (ICTs) have the ability to boost an economy by raising productivity. Less studied is their effect on civil society and what it may use these new technologies for. In the eyes of state leaders, particularly undemocratic ones, technologies with such a clear liberalizing potential as ICTs must inevitably be considered with caution.
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John West - The Promise of Ubiquity
Mobile telephony will be the world’s first ubiquitous communications platform and is getting there faster than anyone expected. Its major path of growth is now in the global South where the mobile is not just a phone but a global address, a transaction device and an identity marker for hundreds of millions of poor people. It holds unprecedented opportunity for media in developing countries to engage their core audiences more deeply, reach new audiences on the edge of their current footprint, and provide interactive and customized information services that are both profitable and life-improving. But the opportunity is also a threat to traditional media, just as the Internet has been – and on a larger scale in developing countries. If media don’t address the mobile as a viable information platform others will, and within the space of a few years media players there will have lost a large measure of their market share, ‘mind share’, and standing in society at large.
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Patrick Meier - The Impact of the Information Revolution on Protest Frequency in Repressive Contexts
Does the information revolution empower the coercive control of repressive regimes at the expense of civil resistance movements, or vice versa? One way to answer this question is to test whether the diffusion of information communication technology—measured by increasing numbers of Internet and mobile phone users—is a statistically significant predictor of anti-government protests after controlling for other causes of protests. If a positive and statistically significant relationship exists between protest frequency and access to ICT, then one might conclude that the information revolution empowers civil resistance movements at the expense of coercive regimes. If a negative relationship exists, one might deduce that repressive governments have the upper hand.
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Fabien Miard - Connecting Rural Uganda. Can mobile phones contribute to local empowerment?
The economic success of the MTN villagePhone and its impact on the rural poor still remains somewhat unclear, though. Other than the village phone operator, who gains income and social status, signs of poverty alleviation among other villagers have yet to be demonstrated. Village-level research in Bangladesh (see, for example, Richardson et al. 2000) has brought some evidence of the actual social and economic impact of village phones. Improving finances and social relations of families, who had a relative abroad for migrant work, were some of the study’s revelations. The reason was that the village phone helped to stay in touch and better channel remittances sent home. So far, these aspects remain unclear in Uganda. There is, however, a study on the impact of village phones in poverty alleviation in Uganda under way, which will be published this year (GFUSA 2007).
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