Abstract: The internet is built on a physical infrastructure owned by a variety of state and private, foreign and domestic actors, with multiple economic and political interests. This talk investigates the causes and consequences of internet service providers (ISP) ownership in Africa using a comprehensive dataset of varying ownership structures and identities in the transforming context of 49 African countries, 2000-2019. It will demonstrate that ISP ownership is determined by a variety of factors including colonial relations and authoritarian collaboration. The talk will further show that state ownership of ISPs is negatively associated with democratic change in a country. Overall, it underlines the importance of unravelling the ownership of ISPs to better understand potential effects of increasing internet penetration in Africa and beyond.
Lisa Garbe recently finished her PhD in International Affairs and Political Economy at the University of St.Gallen and is currently a visiting researcher at the Centre for Digital Governance. In her research, she examines the ownership of internet service providers across Africa and consequences for internet censorship and democratization more generally. Her research interests include authoritarianism, comparative politics, and the political dimension of information and communication technologies. She is interested in combining quantitative and qualitative approaches and spent several months in East Africa for field research.