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It Takes a Village: Peer Effects and Externalities in Technology Adoption

Romain Ferrali, Guy Grossman, Melina R. Platas and Jonathan Rodden

American Journal of Political Science, 2020, vol. 64, issue 3, 536-553

Abstract: Do social networks matter for the adoption of new forms of political participation? We develop a formal model showing that the quality of communication that takes place in social networks is central to understanding whether a community will adopt forms of political participation where benefits are uncertain and where there are positive externalities associated with participation. Early adopters may exaggerate benefits, leading others to discount information about the technology's value. Thus, peer effects are likely to emerge only when informal institutions support truthful communication. We collect social network data for 16 Ugandan villages where an innovative mobile‐based reporting platform was introduced. Consistent with our model, we find variation across villages in the extent of peer effects on technology adoption, as well as evidence supporting additional observable implications. Impediments to social diffusion may help explain the varied uptake of new and increasingly common political communication technologies around the world.

Date: 2020
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https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12471

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