Mobile technologies and innovation at the peripheries: a case study of mobile money within Sub-Saharan Africa

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The rapid evolution of ICT as part of globalisation has opened up access to information at an unprecedented rate, in the process incorporating geographically isolated and peripheral regions particularly within Sub-Saharan Africa. While the adoption of digital technologies elsewhere has evolved along a gradual trajectory representing incremental innovation, within Sub-Saharan Africa a much more rapid adoption of digital applications is underway as poorer economies attempt to keep up with the rest. Two main challenges form the backdrop for these shifts; firstly, the lack of effective regional and national backbone infrastructures to support reliable connectivity, and secondly, the challenging regulatory and policy environments affecting the ability to attract investment. These limitations frame the realities of life for over a third of world's poor, subsisting on below $2 a day within Africa. Majority of these users rely on basic mobile-phone technologies and local applications responsive to their uniquely constrained circumstances. One such application is M-Pesa, a mobile-money platform popular in Kenya for increasing access to financial services for unbanked users at the base of the pyramid. Using the case of mobile money in this typical African country, the potential for digital technologies to catalyse transformation within marginal regions is explored. On the one hand, digital technologies might enable users at economic peripheries to identify opportunities for adaptation, analyse accessible trade-offs and adapt within their challenging contexts. On the other hand, use of new technologies may serve to entrench pre-existing inequalities and not represent the panacea for economic transformation that more optimistic evaluations suggest.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2015
EventAssociation of American Geographers Annual Meeting - Chicago, United States
Duration: 21 Apr 201525 Apr 2015


ConferenceAssociation of American Geographers Annual Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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