Our Programmes



Sign up to our newsletter.

Follow ODI

And then he switched off the phone: mobile phones, participation and political accountability in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State


Written by Mareike Schomerus


This paper uses qualitative and quantitative original data to investigate the impact of mobile phones in situations of political contestation or conflict, using South Sudan as a case study.

Using interdisciplinary methods, the authors gather data through in-depth interviews and a quantitative survey and find little evidence that mobile phone coverage contributes to statebuilding or peacebuilding through a causal link between information, voting, political participation and government accountability.

In a situation where administrative structures and mechanisms do not exist for citizens to hold politicians accountable, access to mobile phones might mean greater dissatisfaction with political participation and voting. People living in areas without coverage expressed a deep mistrust of government, and appeared to want to withdraw from the system of government entirely.

Mareike Schomerus and Anouk S. Rigterink