Telecommunications Politics in Authoritarian Developing Countries - Development, Control and Ownership in the African Information and Communications Technology Sector
Research Question:

What consequence does foreign ownership have in terms of a regime’s capacity to control the flow of information through ICT? To what extent does it release ICT’s potential to contribute to sustainable development in authoritarian contexts? 

The increasing spread of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is commonly seen as contributing to sustainable development worldwide. Leading academics, global organisations, and industry analysts agree that there is a direct correlation between the use of ICT and sustainable macroeconomic growth as well as prospects for democracy. This project takes a more critical approach and takes a closer look at political effects of ICT in authoritarian developing countries.

As a matter of fact, ICT rely critically on the incumbent government and have no automatic positive effect but can also empower repressive regimes. At the same time, ICT have no automatic negative effect either: most regimes are interested in coping with social and economic grievances if perceived as threats to the regimes’ stability. If economic development was to be stimulated, there is no way past ICT. Yet, setting up telecom infrastructure is extremely costly and often requires foreign investment. If foreign companies provide telecommunications services, authoritarian rulers are restricted in their use of ICT for political purposes. This research argues that the way in which ICT is domestically managed determines their potential to contribute to sustainable development, notably economic growth and democratic governance, - or not.

Overall, the project offers the first systematic and comprehensive analysis of telecommunication and media politics in authoritarian developing countries focusing on the influence of foreign investment. By providing a systematic account of the effect of foreign ownership on the use of ICT as tool of repression or development, the results are expected to have important implications for development cooperation and foreign investment.


Project Members

Name Role Department/Institute Institution
Tina Freyburg Coordinator Universität St. Gallen-Hochschule für Wirtschafts-, Rechts- und Sozialwissenschaften
Cinzia dal Zotto Co-Coordinator Université de Neuchâtel
Jovan Kurbalija Associated Member Other
Julia Leininger Associated Member Other
Giacomo Mazzone Associated Member Other
François Rancy Associated Member Other
Veronique Wavre Associated Member Universität St. Gallen-Hochschule für Wirtschafts-, Rechts- und Sozialwissenschaften
Nils Weidmann Associated Member Universität Konstanz