Panel Paper: Toward Quantifying Soft Power: An Examination of Information Technology Proliferation's Impact on Governance in the Middle East

Thursday, July 13, 2017 : 9:45 AM
Stoclet (Crowne Plaza Brussels - Le Palace)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Nikolay Anguelov and Tiffany Kaschel, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
This study examines how information technology and mass communication outlets have been employed as soft power platforms in the Middle East in the aftermath of 9/11/2001.  On the heels of our 2015 work, we offer an expanded model focused on Internet access and mobile phone subscriptions’ impact on government effectiveness and political stability in MENA nations from 2004 to 2014.  We examine those two metrics as our explanatory variables, positing that their values were impacted by two factors that have both changed congruently during the selected time period.  One is in terms of policy and that is the increased investment in soft power programs with the goal of reducing instability and anti-Western sentiments.  We track the technologies through which such soft power messaging reaches the average citizen.  Understanding that such technologies are a product of Western-centric multinationals, we study the interplay between imports, foreign aid, and foreign direct investment (FDI) as direct metrics of foreign capital intensity and trade openness, essential for the proliferation of mass-market Internet and mobile commerce.  The other main factor that has changed is technology itself.  Innovation has ushered unprecedented levels of mobile and new media platforms in the region, increasingly available and affordable to more and more citizens.  We ask how this connectivity has impacted governance and political stability, as defined by the World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI).  Our results suggest that information technology platforms contribute to improved governance, while foreign aid has a negative impact.  We also find that improvement in government effectiveness attracts FDI, while political stability does not.  We discuss these paradoxical relationships in the context of the literatures on aid dependence and commercial exploitation.

Full Paper: