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Mobile Phone Diffusion and Corruption in Africa

  • Catie Snow Bailard

The explosion of mobile phones into a region that, until recently, was nearly devoid of telecommunications infrastructure provides a valuable opportunity to explore the potential effects of information and communication technology on various economic

and social outcomes. This article focuses specifically on the potential influence that mobile phones will exert on corruption in Africa. Two distinct empirical analyses test the hypothesis that mobile phones will reduce corruption in Africa, as a result of decentralizing information and communication and thereby diminishing the opportunities available to engage in corruption as well as increasing the potential of detection and punishment. The results of a fixed effects regression of panel data at the country level reveal a significant negative correlation between a country's degree of mobile phone penetration and that country's level of perceived corruption. In addition to this, a multivariate regression of survey data reveals that the degree of mobile phone signal coverage across 13 Namibian provinces is significantly associated with reduced perceptions of corruption at the individual level.

Catie Snow Bailard received her doctorate in political science from UCLA, before joining the faculty of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University in 2009. She graduated with concentrations in American Politics, Formal and Quantitative Methods, and International Relations. Throughout Catie's academic career, her research agenda has primarily focused on the intersection of telecommunications and politics. This fascination with the effect of mass media on political outcomes began in college as a major in UCLA's Communication Studies Department, a top-ranked undergraduate department. It was this experience that inspired Catie's decision to pursue a doctoral degree in political science at UCLA.  

 Studying under esteemed scholars in the field of political media studies at UCLA provided Catie with a broad substantive understanding of political communication as well as rigorous training in methodology. While the majority of early political communication research focused on television's impact on electoral outcomes in America, Catie's research agenda seeks to broaden this field.  By focusing on political outcomes beyond elections, beyond the American borders, as well as media technologies beyond television, Catie hopes to contribute to the evolution of political communication research to accommodate and effectively study the complex and rapidly-changing landscape of new media.  Catie's preferred approach to research is multi-methodological, with a particular preference for merging cutting edge quantitative analyses with randomized field experiments.