Skip to main content

“I wld like u WMP to extend electricity 2 our village”: On Information Technology and Interest Articulation


How does access to information communication technology (ICT) affect who gets heard and what gets communicated to politicians? On the one hand, ICT can lower communication costs for poorer constituents; on the other, technological channels may be used disproportionately more by the already well connected. To assess the flattening effects of ICTs, we presented a representative sample of constituents in Uganda with an opportunity to send a text message to their representatives at one of three randomly assigned prices. Critically, and contrary to concerns that technological innovations benefit the privileged, we find evidence that ICT can lead to significant flattening: a greater share of marginalized populations use this channel compared to existing political communication channels. Price plays a more complex role. Subsidizing the full cost of messaging increases uptake by over 40%. Surprisingly however, subsidy-induced increases in uptake do not yield further flattening since free channels are not used at higher rates by more marginalized constituents.

Corresponding author
Guy Grossman is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania. Contact: 208 S. 37th St. (225 Stiteler Hall) Philadelphia, PA 19104 (
Macartan Humphreys is Professor, Department of Political Science, Columbia University. Contact: 812 IAB Building, 420 West 118th St., New York, NY 10027 (
Gabriella Sacramone-Lutz is Ph.D. student, Department of Political Science, Columbia University (
Hide All
Aday Sean, Henry Farrell, Marc Lynch, John Sides, and Freelon Deen. 2012. “Blogs and Bullets II: New Media and Conflict after the Arab Spring.” Technical report, United States Institute of Peace.
Anderson Michael L. 2008. “Multiple Inference and Gender Differences in the Effects of Early Intervention: A Reevaluation of the Abecedarian, Perry Preschool, and Early Training Projects.” Journal of the American Statistical Association 103 (484): 1481–95.
Ashworth Scott. 2012. “Electoral Accountability: Recent Theoretical and Empirical Work.” Annual Review of Political Science 15 (1): 183201.
Bachrach Peter, and Baratz Morton S. 1962. “Two Faces of Power.” American Political Science Review 56 (4): 947–52.
Bailard Catie Snow. 2009. “Mobile Phone Diffusion and Corruption in Africa.” Political Communication 26 (3): 333–53.
Barbas Jason, and Jerit Jennifer. 2010. “Are Survey Experiments Externally Valid?American Political Science Review 104 (2): 226–42.
Barkan Joel D., Mattes Robert, Mozaffar Shaheen, and Smiddy Kimberly. 2010. “The African Legislatures Project: First Findings.” CSSR Working Paper No. 277.
Bartels Larry M. 2008. Unequal Democracy: the Political Economy of the New Gilded Age. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Bimber Bruce, and Copeland Lauren. 2013. “Digital Media and Traditional Political Participation Over Time in the U.S.” Journal of Information Technology & Politics 10: 125–37.
Blaschke Sean M., Carroll Peter P., Chaves Daniela Rojas, Findley Michael G., Gleave Madeleine C., Morello Robert N., and Nielson Daniel L.. 2013. “Extrinsic, Intrinsic, and Social Incentives for Crowdsourcing Development Information in Uganda: A Field Experiment.” Mimeo.
Bleck Jaimie, and van de Walle Nicolas. 2013. “Valence Issues in African Elections: Navigating Uncertainty and the Weight of the Past.” Comparative Political Studies 46 (11): 1394–421.
Boulianne Shelley. 2009. “Does Internet Use Affect Engagement? A Meta-Analysis of Research.” Political Communication 26 (2): 193211.
Breuer Anita, Landmann Todd, and Farquhar Dorothea. 2012. “Social Media and Protest Mobilization: Evidence from the Tunisian Revolution.” Mimeo.
Cammett Melani, and Issar Sukriti. 2010. “Bricks and Mortar Clientelism: Sectarianism and the Logics of Welfare Allocation in Lebanon.” World Politics 62 (3): 381421.
Chattopadhyay Raghabendra, and Duflo Esther. 2004. “Women as Policy Makers: Evidence from a Randomized Policy Experiment in India.” Econometrica 72 (5): 1409–43.
Cohen Jessica, and Dupas Pascaline. 2010. “Free Distribution or Cost-Sharing? Evidence from a Randomized Malaria Prevention Experiment.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 125 (1): 145.
Dahl Robert A. 1958. “A Critique of the Ruling Elite Model.” American Political Science Review 52 (2): 463–9.
Diamond Larry. 2010. “Liberation Technology.” Journal of Democracy 21 (3): 6983.
Digeser Peter. 1992. “The Fourth Face of Power.” Journal of Politics 54 (4): 9771007.
Gans Curtis. 2010. “2010 Primary Voter Data Research.” Technical report Center for the Study of the American Electorate, American University’s School of Public Affairs.
Grossman Guy, and Lewis Janet I.. 2014. “Administrative Unit Proliferation.” American Political Science Review 108 (1): 196217.
Hafkin Nancy J., and Huyer Sophia. 2007. “Women and Gender in ICT Statistics and Indicators for Development.” Information Technologies and International Development 4 (2): 2541.
Humphreys Macartan, Masters William A., and Sandbu Martin E.. 2006. “The Role of Leaders in Democratic Deliberations: Results from a Field Experiment in São Tomé and Príncipe.” World Politics 58 (4): 583622.
Humphreys Macartan, and Weinstein Jeremy M.. 2012. “Policing Politicians: Citizen Empowerment and Political Accountability in Uganda.” Working Paper.
Imai Kosuke, King Gary, and Stuart Elizabeth A.. 2008. “Misunderstandings between Experimentalists and Observationalists about Causal Inference.” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society) 171 (2): 481502.
Kessides Christine. 2005. “The Urban Transition in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction.” The World Bank, Africa Region Working Paper Series No. 97 .
Kremer Michael, and Miguel Edward. 2007. “The Illusion of Sustainability.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 122 (3): 1007–65.
Lindberg Staffan I. 2010. “What Accountability Pressures do MPs in Africa Face and how do they Respond? Evidence from Ghana.” The Journal of Modern African Studies 48 (1): 117–42.
Lukes Steven. 1974. Power: A Radical View. Vol. 1, London: Macmillan.
Lupia Arthur, and Elman Colin. 2014. “Openness in Political Science: Data Access and Research Transparency.” PS: Political Science & Politics 47: 1942.
Magnusson Finnur. 2013. How to Write a Constitution in the 21st Century. In Presented at Right to Information and Transparency in the Digital Age Conference. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University.
Meltzer Allan H., and Richard Scott F.. 1981. “A Rational Theory of the Size of Government.” Journal of Political Economy 89 (5): 914–27.
Miard Fabien. 2009. “Call for Power? Mobile Phones as Facilitators of Political Activism.” ISA 50th Annual Convention.
Miguel E., Camerer C., Casey K., Cohen J., Esterling K. M., Gerber A., Glennerster R., Green D. P., Humphreys M., Imbens G., Laitin D., Madon T., Nelson L., Nosek B. A., Petersen M., Sedlmayr R., Simmons J. P., Simonsohn U., and Van der Laan M.. 2014. “Promoting Transparency in Social Science Research.” Science 343 (6166): 30–1.
Oates Briony J. 2003. “The Potential Contribution of ICTs to the Political Process.” Electronic Journal of e-Government 1 (1): 31–9.
Pande Rohini. 2011. “Can Informed Voters Enforce Better Governance? Experiments in Low-Income Democracies.” Annual Review of Economics 3: 215237.
Park Sora. 2009. “Concentration of Internet Usage and its Relation to Exposure to Negative Content: Does the Gender Gap Differ Among Adults and Adolescents?” Women’s Studies International Forum 32 (2): 98107.
Pierskalla Jan H., and Hollenback Florian M.. 2013. “Technology and Collective Action: The Effect of Cell Phone Coverage on Political Violence in Africa.” American Political Science Review 107 (2): 207–24.
Shirazi Farid, Ngwenyama Ojelanki, and Morawczynski Olga. 2010. “ICT Expansion and the Digital Divide in Democratic Freedoms: An Analysis of the Impact of ICT Expansion, Education and ICT Filtering on Democracy.” Telematics and Informatics 27 (1): 2131.
Shirky Clay. 2011. “Political Power of Social Media - Technology, the Public Sphere Sphere, and Political Change.” Foreign Affairs 90: 2841.
Smith Alastair, LaGatta Tom, and Bueno de Mesquita Bruce. 2013. “Prizes, Groups and Pivotality In a Poisson Voting Game Game.” Mimeo, NYU.
Suárez Sandra L. 2006. “Mobile Democracy: Text Messages, Voters Turnout and the 2004 Spanish General Election.” Representation 42 (2): 117–28.
Thompson Mark. 2008. “ICT and Development Studies: Towards Development 2.0.” Journal of International Development 20 (6): 821–35.
Wantchekon Leonard. 2003. “Clientelism and Voting Behavior: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Benin.” World Politics 55 (3): 399422.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Grossman supplementary materials
Grossman supplementary materials

 PDF (103 KB)
103 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 24
Total number of PDF views: 227 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 687 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.