The Political Economy of the Internet – Ownership and Control over Telecommunications Infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa


GT 5.8 Economía Política e Instituciones

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Programa:
Sesión 1
Día: jueves,21 de septiembre de 2017
Hora: 11:00 a 13:00
Lugar: Seminario 2.2.

The Political Economy of the Internet – Ownership and Control over Telecommunications Infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa

Tina Freyburg, Lisa Garbe, and Veronique Wavre (University of St Gallen)

The Internet is of particular interest to political science researchers being a technology that has transformed transnational and domestic political space. There is an on-going debate in academia, whether Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) contribute to democratization by supporting more mobile and frequent forms of social protest or facilitate government’s use of ICT as an instrument to control and manipulate the communication and information flows on their territory.

So far, political scientists have largely treated the Internet as a “technical black box” without recognizing systematic differences in its infrastructure. Access to the Internet is structured by a number of choke points, notably Internet Service Providers that are often in the hands of private companies, such as AT&T or Vodafone. The existence of these central servers may be good news for the likes of authoritarian leaders by making it trivial to censor, spy on, or shut down the internet – provided that whoever owns them is willing to comply with an authoritarian leader’s command. We are interested in determining what impact the ownership of telecommunications companies has on a state’s capacity to control the Internet.

This work’s main contribution is to introduce our ‘telecommunications and media ownership and state control’ (TOSCO) database, mapping the ownership of telecommunications corporations in Sub-Saharan Africa since the late 1990s. This novel database offers a comprehensive understanding of the various private and public actors, interests and roles active in the provision of Internet.

Palabras clave: Internet, multinational companies, ownership, Sub-Sahara Africa