IT sourcing and development?

On the CII blog I recently wrote a summary of some of the current thinking on new models of IT outsourcing, and particularly ideas around socially responsible outsourcing.

This discussion stems from recent discussions that took place at the University of Manchester workshop on IT Sourcing and development.

The idea of this workshop was to revisit IT outsourcing which has become a significant industry and employer in some countries. This particularly comes in the context of growing interest in ‘impact outsourcing’, the idea that IT outsourcing can be designed to include substantial social as well as economic goals.

Here I wanted to summarise what I saw as some of the key discussions, and what it implies for our future work on outsourcing and micro-work in sub-Saharan Africa.

See full article on the CII blog

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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.

Discussing Piketty

In OII we recently had a discussion of the relevance of Piketty’s ‘Captal in the Twenty First Century’ on our work. Following this I wrote a summary of our discussions on the CII website.

For our inaugural discussion around “connectivity and inequality and inclusion” we decided to jump in the deep end and tackle the 600+ pages of Piketty’s much hyped “Capital in the Twenty First Century”.

Undoubtedly this work tackles important historical accounts of the distribution of wealth and the evolution of income across a number of Western countries since the early industrial revolution. However, we wanted to also probe how these portrayals of inequality relate to questions of technology and connectivity – and their significance in this….read full post

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Why efforts to spread lCTs in developing countries often fail

I have an opinion article in SciDev this week, which is a human digestible version of my paper on innovation and scaling of ICT in low income markets (pre-pub) in developing countries

“Traditional methods of ‘scaling’ information and communications technologies are flawed, says Christopher Foster“.

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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

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The economic expectations and potentials of broadband Internet in East Africa

This is a cross post from Oxford Internet Institute’s ‘internet and policy’ blog – It is an interview with me and provides some insight on our work so far on internet connectivity in East Africa.

There has been a lot of hope and publicity about the economic potential of increased Internet connectivity in the East African region; including the hope of disintermediation and better connection to global markets. Chris Foster discusses initial findings of an OII project on Development and Broadband Internet Access in East Africa. Through surveys, interviews and in-depth observations, the project examines the expectations and stated potentials of broadband Internet in East Africa, comparing those expectations to the on-the-ground effects of broadband connectivity.

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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.

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Testing

Yes, it works

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