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Microentrepreneurs and Mobiles: An Exploration of the Uses of Mobile Phones by Small Business Owners in Rwanda

  • Jonathan Donner

    (Center for Global Health and Economic Development, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, 215 W. 125th St., Suite 301, New York, New York 10027)

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    Despite a worldwide boom in mobile phone ownership, studies of the social and economic implications of mobile telephone use in the developing world are rare. Approaching mobile phone usage from the individual level, the study uses Q methodology to ask 31 owners of urban micro and small enterprises (MSEs) in Kigali, Rwanda to articulate what using the mobile means to them. The exercise identified four distinct perspectives on mobile use among the participants. One perspective sees it as a device for the pursuit of instrumental business goals. A second perspective uses mobiles to satisfy emotional or intrinsic needs. Two other perspectives mix instrumental and intrinsic elements, seeing mobiles as productivity enhancers, or as simply indispensable. Taken together, these distinct perspectives illustrate a range of intended uses and gratifications among MSE owners, and suggest numerous paths for future research. Q methodology is discussed in some detail so that researchers can consider its utility as a way to understand users of information and communication technologies. Copyright (c) 2005 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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    Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Information Technologies and International Development.

    Volume (Year): 2 (2004)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 1-21

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    Handle: RePEc:tpr:itintd:v:2:y:2004:i:1:p:1-21
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