Internet Geographies: Changing Connectivities and .. (GeoNet)
Internet Geographies: Changing Connectivities and the Potentials of Sub-Saharan Africa's Knowledge Economy
Start date: Jul 1, 2014,
End date: Jun 30, 2019
Until recently, access to telecommunication technologies was out of reach for all but the most privileged citizens in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However, recent radical changes that have connected hundreds of millions have encouraged politicians, journalists, academics, and citizens to speak of an IT-fuelled economic revolution happening on the continent. Many see potentials to move away from primary industries and towards a focus on quaternary and quinary sectors (the knowledge-based parts of the economy). Yet, it remains that there is surprisingly little research into the emergence of a new knowledge economy in Africa.As such, it is precisely now that we urgently need groundbreaking frontier research to understand precisely what impacts are observable, who benefits, and how these changes match up to our expectations for change. We should therefore ask if we are seeing a new era of development on the continent fuelled by ICTs, or whether SSA’s engagement with the global knowledge economy continues to be on terms that reinforce dependence, underdevelopment, and economic extraversion.This research project tackles this broad line of inquiry by focusing on the geographies, causes, and effects of SSA’s emerging knowledge economies at this crucial moment of change. We do so through three key research contexts: economic geographies of knowledge production; outsourcing and bottom-of-the-pyramid labour; and the creative service sector. Using a mixed-methods approach, we will document the unexpected challenges and the unanticipated innovative uses of this changing connectivity, and cut through through the hype by empirically evaluating benefits and impacts of new communication technologies in Africa. This project will thus contribute not only to academic and policy debates surrounding connectivity and Internet access, but will also provide a robust evidence base crucial in shaping future rounds of ICT related development projects in low-income countries.
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