People of NOVAFRICA: Nikita Melnikov

This month, we had the opportunity to meet with Nikita Melnikov and discuss his research and work, over a cup of coffee. Nikita Melnikov joined NOVA SBE as an assistant professor in September 2022. He completed his undergraduate studies at the New Economics School in Moscow, Russia, and earned his Master’s and PhD in Economics at Princeton University. His research lies in the areas of political economy and development economics, and he maintains a general interest for applied research. Specifically, his current research focuses on Censorship, Propaganda, Political Popularity‘, as well as ‘Organized Crime and Public Goods Provision during a Pandemic‘.

Global 3G rollout: could it affect confidence in governments worldwide?
Our conversation started with a paper that Nikita published jointly with Sergei Guriev and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya in November 2021: the rollout of 3G internet and its effect on the confidence in government. Being originally from Russia, where the traditional media is fully censored and the Internet has been one of the few ways for people to access independent information that is actually critical of the government, the authors wanted to investigate the hypothesis whether this condition applies not only in Russia but also around the world. Hence, the questions the authors tried to answer were: Does 3G help to expose corruption and improve access to independent political information? Or does the Internet actually help populists to connect with voters and spread misinformation?
With this motivation and disputes in mind, the authors used existing data on global mobile Internet penetration from 2008 to 2017 and merged it with detailed surveys about the popularity of governments of 840,000 individuals living in 116 countries. 3G was a game changer as it was the first generation of mobile networks that allowed you to connect to the Internet directly from the smartphone and enabled people to get access to social media and consume new sources of information.

Read more here.

Text by Vicky Schwarze (MSc. In Management)*
Revision by Isabelle Auby (MSc. In International Development and Public Policy)*

*NOVAFRICA Student Group