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Today's date: July 22, 2014

Mobile Phone Revolution in Africa has Not Altered Its Dependence on Developed Nations

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Apr 08, 2014

Despite undergoing an ‘information revolution’ over the past 15 years, highlighted by a vastly increased use of mobile phones, Africa remains heavily dependent on more developed nations. That is according to Associate Professor of Human Geography at Trinity College Dublin, Dr Pádraig Carmody, who investigated the link between increasing mobile phone use and the development of Africa’s role in the global economy.

In a journal article, Dr Carmody argued that Africa is not yet developing a ‘knowledge economy’, even though the number of African mobile phone subscribers rose from 10 million to 647 million between 2000 and 2011. The article was one of the 10 most read to have been published in the Taylor & Francis Science, Technology & Society journals in 2013.

Entitled ‘A knowledge economy or an information society in Africa? Thintegration and the mobile phone revolution,’ the article was published in the international journal Information Technology for Development. Due to its popularity, interested readers will be granted free access to it throughout 2014. It can be viewed here.

Dr Carmody said: “I’m glad that the paper has been of interest to readers and hope that it will stimulate further debate on the topic. This is an area of huge interest to students, and the importance of information and communication technology in, and for, development is set to continue to grow.”

Instead of helping Africa develop a knowledge economy, Dr Carmody explained that although the mobile phone boom is having some beneficial societal and economic impacts, it is typically just enforcing pre-existing global power relations; because the bulk of mobile phone-related ICT innovation, and research and development still occurs outside of Africa, the continent remains heavily dependent on others.

Dr Carmody believes this growing use of mobile phones in Africa therefore merely represents a thin integration, or ‘thintegration’ into the global economy. Most mobile phones are still imported and many of the key services are provided by foreign companies.

He added: “Africa is experiencing an information revolution, but too often it is celebrated uncritically, rather than being subject to more systematic analysis. While new information and communication technologies bring many benefits, they may also help to reinforce previous social patterns and practices. We need more theoretically informed and empirically based work to better understand their impacts on the continent.”

Dr. Carmody’s book, 'Africa’s Information Revolution', which is co-authored by Dr James Murphy from Clark University, will be published later this year by Wiley-Blackwell.

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| sharon.campbell@tcd.ie | Last updated: April 9, 2014