Patrick Meier: Do “Liberation Technologies” Change the Balance of Power Between Repressive States and Civil Society? (2011)

5 December 2011, dusan

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, Egypt 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.

Dissertation thesis
Faculty of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
Dissertation Committee: D. Drezner, L. Diamond, Clay Shirky, C. Gideon
286 pages


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