Amherst Political Scientist Javier Corrales and Economist Frank Westhoff Publish Study of Internet Use and Political Regimes

March 2, 2007
Director of Media Relations
413/542-8417

AMHERST, Mass.—Javier Corrales, associate professor of political science at Amherst College, and Frank Westhoff, the James E. Ostendarp Professor of Economics, have published an article on “Information Technology Adoption and Political Regimes” in the latest issue of the International Studies Quarterly (Dec. 2006). Corrales and Westhoff ask, “What explains the different rates of internet use across nations, otherwise known as the worldwide digital divide?”


This is a question about the determinants of technology adoption, according to Corrales and Westhoff, a debate that has been dominated by two schools of thought—one that focuses on the technology, the other, on the politics. Corrales and Westhoff integrate the two approaches by focusing on the features of both information technologies and social and political institutions that adopt them. Income, trade, infrastructure, market-oriented policies and political liberties help explain the digital divide, but Corrales and Westhoff find a more complex relationship between political liberties and Internet adoption. Not all authoritarian regimes discourage Internet use similarly. “High-income, market-oriented autocratic states are less draconian,” Corrales and Westhoff report, because such regimes “fear the political consequences of Internet expansion, [but] also welcome its economic payoffs.” They conclude with a discussion, drawing from China, on why increasing Internet use may not automatically lead to greater prospects for democratization in authoritarian regimes.

Corrales, who has taught at Amherst since 1997, has been a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and worked at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. He has taught in the Netherlands, Argentina, Paraguay and Venezuela. He earned a B.S. degree in foreign service from Georgetown University, and holds a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University.

Westhoff, who has taught at Amherst since 1979, has B.S. degrees in electrical engineering and economics from M.I.T., and an M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Yale University.

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