Tag Archives: Africa

Notes on Wireless Communication and Global Development (Castells et al 2007)

Chapter 8, In Castells, Manuel, Mireia Fernandez-Ardevol, Jack Linchuan Qiu and Araba Sey (2007) Mobile Communication and Society: A Global Perspective. Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.

Issues at stake

  • Leapfrogging development?
  • Efffects of mobiles on development
  • Mobile digital divide (incl. rural-urban divide within poor countries)
  • Mobility vs connectivity (in poor countries people get mobile to be connected, not because it’s mobile)
  • Design
  • Cost vs benefit (this question not clear in many cases; regulation is needed)
  • Social vs business uses (in Africa, most people use mobiles socially more than biz; empirically very hard to separate them, Donner 2004)

Alternative uses and alternative modes of access

  • Prepaid systems (key to making mobiles accessible to poor)
  • Scaled-down products and services (helps people with low education)
  • Wi-fi for internet access
  • Shared access and maintenance
  • Resource redistribution: beeps and remittances (with beeps, richer can subsidise poorer users)

Case studies in Asia, Africa and Latin America

  • Success of Little Smart (Xiaolingtong) in China: big hit since 2002; for low-income with low mobility; uniquely Chinese; huge low-income market; life in China is highly localised; this system allows ‘localised mobility’; unusual rural-to-urban tech diffusion
  • Wireless Local Loop (WLL) for India’s poor: hampered by economic barriers; unlike China no citywide scope; intense competition; slowed-down investment
  • Modified Grameen model in Uganda: two programmes – MTN VillagePhone and ‘community phone’; both highly successful according to media reports
  • Mobile payphone franchises in S. Africa: excellent performance
  • Grassroots mobile payphone initiatives in Ghana: may prove unsustainable, remains to be seen
  • Africa in general: adapted models, e.g. Grameen project in Uganda not targetting women; S. African system harder for poor entrepreneurs than in Uganda where micro-finance institutions supporting it.
  • Family life and mobiles in Chile: among poor families, mobiles are important tool of family (not so much individual) connectivity rather than mobility; they use mobile as non-mobile device as they have no landline; handset used collectively
  • Wi-Fi Internet for Development in Latin America: can deliver high bandwidth at low cost, but limited by short signal range. Peru case study: 14 interconnected telecentres, organised via existing cooperative, creating spillovers across region; but hard to replicate and much regulatory change needed in Latin America; often top-down and excluding community orgs and small entrepreneurs.


Huge connectivity gap across global South, despite magic bullet hype of mobiles. Still a lot of investment in infrastructure, adequate regulation, etc, required if people are to gain their connectivity rights. Meanwhile chapter has shown all manner of inventive ways in which people and orgs in these regions have sought to improve the situation, but a lot remains to be done.


Research project: Mobile Africa Revisited

via African Studies Centre, University of Leiden website

Mobile Africa Revisited: A Comparative Study of the Relations between New Communication Technologies and New Social Spaces (Chad, Mali, Cameroon, Angola, Tanzania, Sudan)

Mirjam de Bruijn, Inge Brinkman, Francis Nyamnjoh

In Africa, the use of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) − the Internet and mobile telephony in particular − has accelerated remarkably since these were introduced in the late 1990s. This explosion of the Internet and mobile telephony on the African continent is oftentimes portrayed as a straightforward economic success and an opportunity for marginalized areas to overcome their assumed isolation. In the development discourse the new ICT are unequivocally regarded as a means for ‘development’. There are problems still; the ‘digital divide’ and the ‘technology gap’ threaten to slacken the process of Africa’s inclusion as active participants in the global village. Yet, these problems are interpreted only in terms of inclusion and problems of access. Within development circles the aim is to capacitate people (especially disadvantaged groups) so that they can afford these technologies and are no longer blocked from usage. The relation between development and communication technologies as such is not questioned. This view has been criticized by a number of scholars. For these scholars the new ICT are a hegemonising force comparable to a new form of imperialism and neo-colonial control. Introduced by Western companies, these new technologies merely serve to bring Africa more firmly into the orbit of worldwide neo-capitalism. The new technologies are based on illegal coltan-mining, pushed onto African customers with misleading and aggressive advertisement campaigns, undermining local traditions of face-to-face communication, and, on top, old models from the West are dumped on the African continent, adding to the problem of pollution.

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2nd International Conference on M4D, Mobile Technology for Development

** via IAMCR mailing list **

The 2nd International Conference on M4D
Mobile Communication Technology for Development
Kampala, Uganda 10 – 11 Nov 2010


3rd Call for Papers

Welcome to M4D2010!

HumanIT (Karlstad University, Sweden) in cooperation with Makerere University (Kampala, Uganda) invite you to the 2nd International Conference on M4D – Mobile Communication Technology for Development, following the inaugural conference in Karlstad, Sweden in 2008 (http://m4d.humanit.org/) and M4D workshop in East Africa 2008 (http://m4d.kcl.co.ug/).

M4D2010 aims to provide a forum for researchers, practitioners and all those with interests in the use of Mobile Communication Technology for Development. Confirmed keynote speakers so far are Richard Duncombe (University of Manchester), Ken Banks (founder of kiwanja.net and creator of FrontlineSMS) and Thomas Tufte (Roskilde University, Ørecomm, MEDIeA).

M4D2010 will combine two days of plenary sessions, peer-reviewed paper sessions, workshops, panel sessions, discussion forums, and demos. The conference will take place at Protea Hotel in Kampala
(http://www.proteahotels.com/protea-hotel-kampala.html ).

In conjunction with M4D2010, MobileMonday Kampala (MoMoKla, http://www.momokla.ug) will organise a special evening Monday, November 8th. MoMoKla is the Ugandan chapter of MobileMonday, which is a global network of mobile industry professionals and start-ups with chapters in over 100 cities around the world. M4D2010 participants will get a chance to network with and learn from professionals in Uganda’s telecommunication, academia, media and ICT sectors.

M4D2010 will include a workshop organised by SPIDER (www.spidercenter.org/):
“A mobile in every hand- exploring mobile technology’s potential in increasing transparency”. SPIDER’s workshop will through a panel of experts explore the potentials of mobile technology in increasing transparency, as well as curbing corruption. The workshop will present innovative cases and invite the audience to participate in outlining concrete ways to use mobile technology in increasing transparency in general and the development sector in particular.

Accepted papers will be published in the conference proceedings. We are currently negotiating with The Journal of Information Technology for Development (ITD) to publish best papers from the conference.

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Mobile technologies for gender development (M4GD)

By John Postill

I have just discovered a very interesting research project named Mobile technology, gender and development in Africa, India and Bangladesh. This project is based at the Department of History and Ethnology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland and funded by the Academy of Finland (2010-2013). The project leader is Prof. Laura Stark:

“Project members will conduct empirical, interview-based field research in Africa and South Asia on the new opportunities and challenges offered by mobile technologies for women and girls, and how mobile technologies are already impacting gender relations in these areas. We will conduct research in Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ghana, India, South Africa and Tanzania.”

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