Category Archives: New publications

Digitalisation, small firms and value chains

This week UNCTAD released their flagship Information Economy Report 2017. With growing global digital connectivity and technologically-driven global markets, it is appropriate that it focuses on ‘Digitalization, Trade and Development’.

The report provides extensive outline of the latest thinking on issues including future automation technologies, online work and a consideration of what jobs and skills are important in this changing economy. See full report here

IER cover

Information economy report 2017

I was involved in contributing a background paper for this report on the digitalisation of small enterprises in developing countries and the impacts on trade which supports Chapter 3. I think it is one of the first analysis that attempts to provide a sectoral perspective on this topic, linking between digitalisation and small firms through analysis of ‘value chains’ in each sector. Continue reading

Advertisements

Big data and development in India

I recently wrote a short article on the blog of the Sheffield Institute of International Development (SIID). It outline some of the pilot work I’m currently involved with on Big Data and Development

…We’re seeing a growth of interest in using more data in development, and notably large and complex “big data” to help solve development problems. Indeed, we can say that the infrastructures now being built to support big data are likely to become central to how we make development decisions in the future.

How will such data infrastructures shape our thinking about development over the next decade? What types of limitations and biases might they embed? How should they best be designed and implemented? It is these questions that we looked to explore in a recent project exploring big data use in India.

See the full article of the SIID blog

The TPP and the digital trade agenda

I’m happy to share new working paper titled ‘The TPP and the digital trade agenda: Digital industrial policy and Silicon Valley’s influence on new trade agreements‘, written by Shamel Azmeh and myself.

In the paper we explore the growing focus on data and digital information flows in new trade deals such as the TPP, and explore some of the motivations behind this trend.

For a more accessible outline, see the medium article we wrote

One of the most commented upon elements of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the inclusion of new rules around digital information flows and digital data. In particular, we have seen civil society and technology commentators criticising some of the rules within the agreement — on source code, data localisation and intermediaries — that they suggest will be detrimental to a secure, open and competitive digital sector.

What has been less discussed is the reason why these rules are part of such an agreement. We suggest that many of the problems identified so far are purely collateral damage emerging from the main goal of digital clauses of the TPP — an aim by Silicon Valley to nip in the bud the expansion of ‘digital protectionism’ (or what we prefer to call ‘digital industrial policy’!).

What can governments do to encourage inclusive innovation?

Whilst innovation is frequently associated with disruptive activities of entrepreneurs and firms, in the last few years we have seen a growing interest in how innovation can be ‘inclusive’, with a particular focus on innovations in developing countries.

We’re beginning to build a picture about ‘inclusive innovation: Research on farmers and informal workers shows that local innovation is essential for to livelihoods (see images). We’ve also seen the growth of ICT as a viable technology in remote parts of the world, with an expansion of ICT innovations in areas like mobile money and micro-insurance for the poor. More recently we’ve seen the launch of the new global sustainable development goals (SDGs) which place inclusive innovation as central to supporting the worlds biggest social problems.

gfhf

Examples of local innovation in Kenya: A locally-made fodder cutter (l); an improvised welding device (r).
Images taken from Making Do by Steve Daniels (cc-by-sa 3.0)

What we don’t know much about is the policy that supports this ‘inclusive innovation’. What can governments do to encourage the emergence and growth of inclusive innovation? In a new working paper published by myself and Richard Heeks we look to answer this question. The paper is inspired by earlier work we did on the mobile phone sector in Kenya, which revealed that policy was integral in successfully pushing expansion to low income groups. In this paper we analyse inclusive innovation in a wider set of sectors to build more general advice for policy makers.

Continue reading

Exploring the role of internet in East African production

Two reports that I co-authored were released last week. They explore the impacts that changing broadband infrastructure is having on some of the key sectors of production in East Africa. See the short outlines, summaries and links below:

Connectivity and the Tea Sector in Rwanda

cover-tea-e1423134330943-211x300Adoption of digital technologies is not comprehensive in the Rwandan tea sector (with, for example, very low Internet use among tea growers), but we did find growing use of the Internet and ICTs.

Where they were present, digital flows of information were increasingly important to the ability of firms to improve production and ultimately to increase their share of economic value from tea.Thus we see a growing importance of ‘data-driven value chains’ – that is, new digital information flows which are becoming as important as the flows of material goods.

Blog summary | Full report

The Internet and Tourism in Rwanda

cover-tourism-e1423134880927-210x300Tourist service providers in Rwanda have a very high Internet adoption, and even the smallest hotel or tour agency is likely to have at least one mobile Internet-connected laptop. Many of the global tourist platforms also have a presence in the region. So, Internet connectivity, Internet access and sector-wide platforms are available for tourism firms. However, we found impact of internet on Rwandan tourism to be modest.

In this report we explore the uneven relationships, platforms and customer relations which effects the impact of the internet in tourism

Blog summary | Full report

Geographies of Information Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa

Myself and Mark Graham recently wrote a short essay for the IDRC-IT for Change Network Inclusion Roundtable that took place in Bangalore, India.

Snippet below. The full essay is available on the roundtable website

while much research has been conducted into the impacts of ICTs on older economic processes and practices, there remains surprisingly little research into the emergence of the new informationalised economy in Africa.

As such, it is precisely now that we urgently need research to understand what impacts are observable, who benefits, who doesn’t, and how these changes match up to our expectations for change.

We need to ask if we are seeing a new era of development on the continent fuelled by ICTs, or whether Sub- Saharan Africa’s engagement with the global knowledge economy continues to be on terms that reinforce dependence, inequality, underdevelopment, and economic extraversion.

Low income markets and mobile – The problem of “quality”

When I started my research on low income use of mobile phones in Kenya, my goal was to understand how ICTs are adapted by these actors. But, research often goes in unexpected directions when you start talking to people….!

One unexpected outcome of my research was the level of complaints about mobile. People were running into problems with mobile technologies and services – cheap mobile phone handsets were unreliable, people were getting scammed through mobile money/SMS and mobile phone reception was terrible on some networks. Sure ICTs had created some new benefits and opportunities but not without creating a number of undesirable problems.

Mobile money scams highlight one issue of quality declines that has effected low income users

A new paper [1], now available in the journal Technology in Society, digs a bit deeper into these issues. The paper considers such complaints as symptomatic of a wider challenge of ‘quality’ of innovations in low income markets.

To my knowledge, this is one of the first attempt to explicitly research this negative side of mobile, so I think it is an important piece of work

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Scaling new technologies for low income users

In developing countries, there is growing interest in adapting new technologies to allow them to reach low income groups. Such strategies can help firms to expand to wider markets and at the same time, bring appropriate and affordable technology to the poor.

However, there is a record of firms struggling to grow beyond pilots to achieve scale. A recent publication [1] of mine (with Richard Heeks) has looked to provide a deeper analysis of how firms can go about reaching low income groups, focusing on the mobile phone sector in Kenya.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,