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Pro-poor social and economic opportunities in the African ICT innovation ecosystem. Perspectives and case study of Iringa, Tanzania
06 June 2012
Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT)
Since the late 1990s, the “mobile revolution” in Africa has created a huge number of new jobs and micro-entrepreneurs providing critical maintenance for the continental ICT infrastructure, as well as new income opportunities at the base of the pyramid. This research analyses how such opportunities are created and what their impact is on the contribution of ICT to development, and it also develops forward-looking perspectives to enhance how ICT can be accompanied by inclusive innovation practices that effectively address rural and urban poverty in developing countries.
The research project included extensive field research in Iringa, Tanzania, which was chosen as the case study locale, as it typifies, in many respects, the rural social, cultural, economic and geographic landscape in Tanzania and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The description of ICT-related social and economic opportunities, which include Internet cafés, mobile phone sales, repairs and related services, SIM-card and phone-time voucher vending, and services for local telecommunication base stations, is a central objective of this report. Local ICT service ecology has significant poverty-alleviating impacts, and we also review the underlying skills, competencies and micro-entrepreneurial strategies to identify what enables low-income communities and people to seize these social and economic opportunities.
A second key objective of the research project was to map the local ICT innovation ecosystem in Iringa, and to describe how the technical ICT infrastructure conditions the available pro-poor social and economic opportunities. Here our research points out that the technical and economic limitations of local ICT innovation ecosystems weighs heavily on the ability of rural communities to capitalise on the latest waves of ICT technology, and we develop perspectives on technology foresight and roadmapping practices that would pay heightened attention to pro-poor technology opportunities.
This research project has been undertaken as an “African Local Innovation Ecosystems” project, which was commissioned by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland with the objective of developing new perspectives and recommen-dations for the Finnish Development Policy. The authors are responsible for all mistakes, omissions, findings, interpretations, conclusions and recommendations.