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Technology and Collective Action: The Effect of Cell Phone Coverage on Political Violence in Africa


The spread of cell phone technology across Africa has transforming effects on the economic and political sphere of the continent. In this paper, we investigate the impact of cell phone technology on violent collective action. We contend that the availability of cell phones as a communication technology allows political groups to overcome collective action problems more easily and improve in-group cooperation, and coordination. Utilizing novel, spatially disaggregated data on cell phone coverage and the location of organized violent events in Africa, we are able to show that the availability of cell phone coverage significantly and substantially increases the probability of violent conflict. Our findings hold across numerous different model specifications and robustness checks, including cross-sectional models, instrumental variable techniques, and panel data methods.

Corresponding author
Jan H. Pierskalla is a Postdoctoral Fellow, German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), FSP 2, Neuer Jungfernstieg 21, 20354 Hamburg, Germany (
Florian M. Hollenbach is a Ph.D. candidate, Department of Political Science, Duke University, Perkins Library 326, Box 90204, Durham NC 27708, USA (
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