Tag Archives: ictd

Book review – Africa’s Information Revolution

As part of the Global Conference on Economic Geography (GCEG) held in Oxford in August 2015 I was part of an ‘Author meets Critics’ panel which discussed the new book ‘Africa’s Information Revolution’ by James Murphy & Padraig Carmody.

Below is the commentary that I made drawing on some of the conclusions from our research at the OII. As I was taking the role of the critic, this commentary dwells on critiques for the sake of provoking discussion. But, the book definitely worth a read for anyone interested in examining issues around ICT and development, as well as those who are interested in the larger scale impacts of ICTs in developing and emerging markets.

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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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