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A knowledge economy or an information society in Africa? Thintegration and the mobile phone revolution


  • Pádraig Carmody


Much has been written about the impacts of new information and communication technology in Africa and its transformational socio-economic impacts. The penetration of mobile phones in particular has been particularly marked in recent years. This paper seeks to interrogate the hypothesis of transformation by examining the ways in which Africa is integrated into the global mobile phone value chain, and then the uses to which this technology is put on the continent. There is a fundamental distinction between having a knowledge economy and an information society. While mobiles are having significant, and sometimes welfare-enhancing impacts, their use is embedded in existing relations of social support, and also conflict. Consequently, their impacts are dialectical, facilitating change, but also reinforcing existing power relations. While Africa may be an information society, it is not, as yet, developing a knowledge economy. Mobile phone usage then represents a form of thin, rather than thick, integration ("thintegration") in the global economy, which, because it does not lead to high value-added exports, does not fundamentally alter the continent's dependent position.

Suggested Citation

  • Pádraig Carmody, 2013. "A knowledge economy or an information society in Africa? Thintegration and the mobile phone revolution," Information Technology for Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(1), pages 24-39, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:titdxx:v:19:y:2013:i:1:p:24-39
    DOI: 10.1080/02681102.2012.719859

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Harry G. Broadman, 2007. "Africa's Silk Road : China and India's New Economic Frontier," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 7186.
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    Cited by:

    1. Simplice A. Asongu & Jacinta C. Nwachukwu, 2018. "Recent finance advances in information technology for inclusive development: a systematic review," Netnomics, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 65-93, October.
    2. Asongu, Simplice, 2017. "Mobile Phone Innovation and Technology-driven Exports in Sub-Saharan Africa," MPRA Paper 84040, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised May 2017.
    3. Simplice Asongu, 2017. "ICT, Openness and CO2 emissions in Africa," Working Papers of the African Governance and Development Institute. 17/055, African Governance and Development Institute..
    4. Simplice A. Asongu & Jacinta C. Nwachukwu, 2017. "Recent finance advances in information technology for inclusive development: a survey," Research Africa Network Working Papers 17/009, Research Africa Network (RAN).
    5. Asongu, Simplice A. & Le Roux, Sara & Biekpe, Nicholas, 2018. "Enhancing ICT for environmental sustainability in sub-Saharan Africa," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 209-216.
    6. repec:eee:enepol:v:111:y:2017:i:c:p:353-361 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Simplice A. Asongu & John C. Anyanwu & Vanessa S. Tchamyou, 2017. "Technology-driven information sharing and conditional financial development in Africa," Research Africa Network Working Papers 17/010, Research Africa Network (RAN).
    8. Asongu, Simplice A. & Le Roux, Sara & Biekpe, Nicholas, 2017. "Environmental degradation, ICT and inclusive development in Sub-Saharan Africa," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 353-361.
    9. Simplice A. Asongu & Jacinta C. Nwachukwu & Chris Pyke, 2019. "The Comparative Economics of ICT, Environmental Degradation and Inclusive Human Development in Sub-Saharan Africa," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 143(3), pages 1271-1297, June.
    10. Asongu, Simplice & Nwachukwu, Jacinta, 2017. "The Role of Openness in the Effect of ICT on Governance," MPRA Paper 84344, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. repec:spr:jknowl:v:10:y:2019:i:2:d:10.1007_s13132-017-0500-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Asongu, Simplice & Nwachukwu, Jacinta, 2017. "Openness, ICT and Entrepreneurship in Sub-Saharan Africa," MPRA Paper 83070, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Simplice A. Asongu & Ndemaze Asongu, 2019. "The Role of Mobile Phones in Governance-Driven Technology Exports in Sub-Saharan Africa," Journal of the Knowledge Economy, Springer;Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), vol. 10(2), pages 849-867, June.

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