IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Developmental uses of mobile phones in Kenya and Uganda


  • Johann Maree
  • Rachel Piontak
  • Tonny Omwansa
  • Isaac Shinyekwa
  • Kamotho Njenga


Abstract It is common cause that the advent of mobile telecommunications, particularly the mobile phone, has been immensely beneficial to developing countries. Not only has it facilitated and improved communication between individuals, but also it has enabled economies to grow faster. This paper explores an additional benefit that derives from having access to a mobile phone. It examines the developmental uses of mobile phones in two East African countries: Kenya and Uganda. It focuses on the relationship between the economic upgrading and the social upgrading or downgrading that result from the developmental uses of mobile phones. It is done by means of case studies. In Kenya, the paper looks at three developmental projects making use of the M-Pesa platform, as well as two hubs in Nairobi where original ideas are incubated. In Uganda, it explores two uses of MTN’s mobile money facility and two innovative rural agricultural projects. It finds that all the cases and projects result in economic and social upgrading, although there is also some social downgrading. The study also extends and broadens the conceptualization of economic and social upgrading as formulated by Capturing the Gains thus far. Finally, the paper shows how it differs from most other studies on the developmental uses of mobile phones in Sub-Saharan Africa – by focusing on social entrepreneurship, which, unlike private entrepreneurship, seeks primarily to create social value. With one exception, all the cases studied in this paper enhance the capacity of users of mobile phones to upgrade themselves economically and socially.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:bwp:bwppap:ctg-2013-35

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. William MILBERG & Deborah WINKLER, 2011. "Economic and social upgrading in global production networks: Problems of theory and measurement," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 150(3-4), pages 341-365, December.
    2. 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.
    3. Jenny C. Aker & Isaac M. Mbiti, 2010. "Mobile Phones and Economic Development in Africa," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 207-232, Summer.
    4. Nick Hughes & Susie Lonie, 2007. "M-PESA: Mobile Money for the "Unbanked" Turning Cellphones into 24-Hour Tellers in Kenya," Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization, MIT Press, vol. 2(1-2), pages 63-81, April.
    5. Jeffrey James & Mila Versteeg, 2007. "Mobile phones in Africa: how much do we really know?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 84(1), pages 117-126, October.
    6. James, M.J. & Versteeg, M., 2007. "Mobile phones in Africa : How much do we really know?," Other publications TiSEM 71c384dd-b246-4fa0-a046-d, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bwp:bwppap:ctg-2013-35. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Rowena Harding). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.