Mobile Phones and Attitudes toward Women’s Participation in Politics: Evidence from Africa

Varriale, Carlotta and Pesando, Luca Maria and Kashyap, Ridhi and Rotondi, Valentina (2021) Mobile Phones and Attitudes toward Women’s Participation in Politics: Evidence from Africa. Sociology of Development. pp. 1-37.

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This study explores the relationship between technology adoption and attitudes toward gender equality in political representation by relying on diffusion theories coupled with frameworks of ideational change, social interaction, and world society. We examine whether the use of mobile phones shapes gender attitudes toward women’s participation in politics by making it more widely accepted that women hold institutional roles. We do so with micro-level data from the AfroBarometer, covering 36 African countries, and a multilevel modeling approach. Our results suggest that regular use of mobile phones is associated with more positive attitudes toward women’s participation in politics. The significant relationship—robust to the use of instrumental variable techniques—is observed only among women. This finding strengthens the idea that technology adoption on the part of women, by improving connectivity and expanding access to information, may be a successful lever to raise women’s status and promote societal well-being, ultimately contributing to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5, which seeks to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” Concurrently, the lack of a significant relationship for men highlights an important yet often neglected issue: policies aimed at changing gender attitudes are often targeted at women, but men’s attitudes can be stickier than women’s, thus requiring further efforts.

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