ISA 2009: New ICTs Increase Government Respect for Human Rights

As mentioned in my previous post, I am chairing a panel I organized on:

“The Changing Role of ICT in Political Activism, Resistance and Human Rights”

at the ISA conference in New York next week. The panel will figure four presenters (including myself). I’ll blog about the papers one at a time in the lead up to Tuesday’s panel.


The first presentation by Lucia Munoz and Indra de Soysa will address the impact of information communication technologies (ICTs) on government respect for human rights. Their large-N quantitative study is particularly interesting because they seek to determine whether old and new technologies have differential impact on the respect for human rights:

We argue that the question of ICTs and social outcomes must be addressed in terms of whether or not the new technologies are ‘qualitatively’ different from the older technologies.


The study draws on the Political Terror Scale (PTS) and the Physical Integrity Rights Index (CIRI) to measure government respect for human rights. In terms of ICT data, old media is comprised of telephone landlines and television sets (1980-2005) while new media includes Internet subscribers and mobile phone access (1990-2005). This data is taken from the World Telecommunications/ICT Indicators Database. The authors control for the following variables: the level of formal democracy, economic situation, population size, ethnic fractionalization, civil war, oil wealth, legal tradition system and the time trend.


Using Ordered Probit Analysis and OLS regression analysis, the authors find “clear evidence suggesting that the effects of internet access are positive, net of several important control variables, such as income and regime type. The older information and communication technology, such as access to TV and mainline telephones, is negative and statistically highly significant. This means that, after controlling for a host of important factors, the old technology lowers rights while the new technology increases respect for human rights.”


These findings are fascinating since the results empirically demonstrate the fundamental difference in impact between old and new technologies. Perhaps this validates the points I made in my debate on Human Rights 2.0 with Sanjana Hattotuwa from ICT4Peace. In any event, I will include these preliminary findings in my panel presentation at the HURIDOCS conference in Geneva on:

“New Trends in Human Rights Communications.”

A copy of the paper by Munoz and Indra is available here (PDF). Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts on the two other panel presentations.

Patrick Philippe Meier

4 responses to “ISA 2009: New ICTs Increase Government Respect for Human Rights

  1. Pingback: Smart Mobs » Blog Archive » Why Human Rights 2.0 Matters

  2. Pingback: ISA 2009: Mobile Phones and Political Activism « iRevolution

  3. Pingback: ISA 2009: Panel on ICTs, Human Rights, Activism and Resistance « iRevolution

  4. Pingback: Impact of ICTs on Repressive Regimes: Findings by Patrick Philippe Meier « Remixing the Web for Social Change

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