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.
Mobile Phones and Attitudes toward Women’s Participation in Politics: Evidence from Africa
Carlotta Varriale is a PhD Candidate in Public Policy and Administration at the Department of Social and Political Sciences, Bocconi University. Her research interests are in the areas of governance and regulation of local government, reorganization of public-health agencies, and dynamics of gender inequality.
Luca Maria Pesando is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Demography at the Department of Sociology and Centre on Population Dynamics, McGill University. His research interests are in the areas of social, economic, and digital demography, with a focus on the intergenerational implications of family change for educational and gender inequalities.
Ridhi Kashyap is an Associate Professor of Social Demography at the Department of Sociology, Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, and Nuffield College, University of Oxford. Her research interests are in the areas of demographic change, health and mortality, gender inequality, digital technology, and computational social science.
Valentina Rotondi is a Researcher at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland and Associate Researcher at the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, University of Oxford. Her research interests are in the areas of applied social science, experimental economics, socioeconomic development, demographic change, and technological progress.
Carlotta Varriale, Luca Maria Pesando, Ridhi Kashyap, Valentina Rotondi; Mobile Phones and Attitudes toward Women’s Participation in Politics: Evidence from Africa. Sociology of Development 1 March 2022; 8 (1): 1–37. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sod.2020.0039
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