Alexander Yeandle

  Wednesday, 1st March 2023

  14:30 - 15:30

   Butler Room - Nuffield College

   Mobile Technology, Urban-Rural Contact, and the Diffusion of Political Beliefs


In recent years access to mobile phones has grown rapidly across Sub-Saharan Africa. While use of smartphones and mobile internet remain concentrated in urban environments, most rural residents have access to basic mobile telephony, such as calls and SMS. One way in which mobile devices shape daily life is the ability to maintain regular contact with friends and relatives across a country. In rural areas, this leads to greater communication with those living in urban centres.

Building on frameworks of information transmission and belief updating, I argue that this heightened urban-rural contact has important political ramifications across Sub-Saharan Africa. Urban and rural voters are distinct political constituencies, with urbanites generally more sceptical of the government. As contact increases, this scepticism will diffuse.

Empirically, I use observational data from across the African continent to show aggregate evidence consistent with this argument. I then outline a planned experimental intervention in Ghana, based on a recent pilot study, which will examine the causal mechanism in greater depth.