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A review of evidence on mobile use by micro and small enterprises in developing countries


  • Jonathan Donner

    (Technology for Emerging Markets Group, Microsoft Research India, Bangalore, India)

  • Marcela X. Escobari

    (Center for International Development, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA)


The paper offers a systematic review of 14 studies of the use of mobile telephony by micro and small enterprises (MSEs) in the developing world, detailing findings about changes to enterprises' internal processes and external relationships, and findings about mobile use vs. traditional landline use. Results suggest that there is currently more evidence for the benefits of mobile use accruing mostly (but not exclusively) to existing MSEs rather than new MSEs, in ways that amplify existing material and informational flows rather than transform them. The review presents a more complete picture of mobile use by MSEs than was previously available, and identifies priorities for future research, including comparisons of the impact of mobile use across subsectors of MSEs and extensions beyond studies of existing enterprises. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan Donner & Marcela X. Escobari, 2010. "A review of evidence on mobile use by micro and small enterprises in developing countries," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(5), pages 641-658.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jintdv:v:22:y:2010:i:5:p:641-658 DOI: 10.1002/jid.1717

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Steve Esselaar & Christoph Stork & Ali Ndiwalana & Mariama Deen-Swarray, 2007. "ICT Usage and Its Impact on Profitability of SMEs in 13 African Countries," Information Technologies and International Development, MIT Press, vol. 4(1), pages 87-100, October.
    2. Muto, Megumi & Yamano, Takashi, 2009. "The Impact of Mobile Phone Coverage Expansion on Market Participation: Panel Data Evidence from Uganda," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(12), pages 1887-1896, December.
    3. Mead, Donald C. & Liedholm, Carl, 1998. "The dynamics of micro and small enterprises in developing countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 61-74, January.
    4. Richard Duncombe & Richard Heeks, 2002. "Enterprise across the digital divide: information systems and rural microenterprise in Botswana," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(1), pages 61-74.
    5. Abi Jagun & Richard Heeks & Jason Whalley, 2008. "The Impact of Mobile Telephony on Developing Country Micro-Enterprise: A Nigerian Case Study," Information Technologies and International Development, MIT Press, vol. 4(4), pages 47-65, October/J.
    6. Reuben Abraham, 2007. "Mobile Phones and Economic Development: Evidence From the Fishing Industry in India," Information Technologies and International Development, MIT Press, vol. 4(1), pages 5-17, October.
    7. Jonathan Donner, 2004. "Microentrepreneurs and Mobiles: An Exploration of the Uses of Mobile Phones by Small Business Owners in Rwanda," Information Technologies and International Development, MIT Press, vol. 2(1), pages 1-21.
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    Cited by:

    1. Paunov, Caroline & Rollo, Valentina, 2016. "Has the Internet Fostered Inclusive Innovation in the Developing World?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 587-609.
    2. Peter Dannenberg & Tobia Lakes, 2013. "The use of mobile phones by Kenyan export-orientated small-scale farmers: insights from fruit and vegetable farming in the Mt. Kenya region," ECONOMIA AGRO-ALIMENTARE, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 15(3), pages 55-75.
    3. repec:lje:journl:v:22:y:2017:i:sp:p:251-281 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Johann Maree & Rachel Piontak & Tonny Omwansa & Isaac Shinyekwa & Kamotho Njenga, 2013. "Developmental uses of mobile phones in Kenya and Uganda," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series ctg-2013-35, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
    5. Staatz, John M. & Kizito, Andrew M. & Weber, Michael T. & Dembele, Niama Nango, 2011. "Evaluating the Impact on Market Performance of Investments in Market Information Systems: Methodological Challenges," Staff Papers 108184, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics.

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