Do Liberation Technologies Change the Balance of Power Between Repressive States and Civil Society
Abstract: Do new information and communication technologies (ICTs) empower
repressive regimes at the expense of civil society, or vice versa? For example, does
access to the Internet and mobile phones alter the balance of power between repressive
regimes and civil society? These questions are especially pertinent today given the role
that ICTs played during this year's uprisings in Tunisia, Eg... read moreypt and beyond. Indeed, as one
Egyptian activist stated, "We use Facebook to schedule our protests, Twitter to coordinate
and YouTube to tell the world." But do these new ICTs--so called "liberation
technologies"--really threaten repressive rule? The purpose of this dissertation is to use
mixed-methods research to answer these questions. The first half of this doctoral study
comprises a large-N econometric analysis to test whether "liberation technologies" are a
statistically significant predictor of anti-government protests in countries with
repressive regimes. If using the Internet and mobile phones facilitates organization,
mobilization and coordination, then one should expect a discernible link between an
increase in access to ICTs and the frequency of protests--particularly in repressive
states. The results of the quantitative analysis were combined with other selection
criteria to identify two country case studies for further qualitative comparative
analysis: Egypt and the Sudan. The second half of the dissertation assesses the impact of
"liberation technologies" during the Egyptian Parliamentary Elections and Sudanese
Presidential Elections of 2010. The analysis focused specifically on the use of
Ushahidi--a platform often referred to as a "liberation technology." Descriptive analysis,
process tracing and semi-structured interviews were carried out for each case study. The
results of the quantitative and qualitative analyses were mixed. An increase in mobile
phone access was associated with a decrease in protests for four of the five regression
models. Only in one model was an increase in Internet access associated with an increase
in anti-government protests. As for Ushahidi, the Egyptian and Sudanese dictatorships were
indeed threatened by the technology because it challenged the status quo. Evidence
suggests that this challenge tipped the balance of power marginally in favor of civil
society in Egypt, but not in the Sudan, and overall not significantly.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2012.
Submitted to the Dept. of Diplomacy, History, and Politics.
Advisor: Daniel Drezner.
Committee: Larry Diamond, Carolyn Gideon, and Clay Shirky.
Keywords: International relations, and Political Science.read less