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Developmental uses of mobile phones in Kenya and Uganda

Listed author(s):
  • 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.

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Paper provided by BWPI, The University of Manchester in its series Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series with number ctg-2013-35.

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Date of creation: 2013
Handle: RePEc:bwp:bwppap:ctg-2013-35
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  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.
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