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ISSN: 1463-6697

Online from: 1999

Subject Area: Industry and Public Sector Management

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Will telecommunications development improve the quality of life in African countries?

Document Information:
Title:Will telecommunications development improve the quality of life in African countries?
Author(s):Ibrahim Kholilul Rohman, (PhD Candidate in the Department of Technology Management and Economics, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)
Citation:Ibrahim Kholilul Rohman, (2012) "Will telecommunications development improve the quality of life in African countries?", info, Vol. 14 Iss: 4, pp.36 - 51
Keywords:Africa, Internet, Mobile phone, Quality of life
Article type:Research paper
DOI:10.1108/14636691211240879 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Acknowledgements:The author is very grateful to Research ICT Africa (RIA) for the data and advice during the study. The author is responsible for all remaining errors.

PurposeThis study aims to measure quality of life (QOL) at the individual level in African countries in relation to the accessibility of mobile phones and the internet. QOL is proxied by self-reported data on household income, participation in decision-making and productivity, which is measured in additional working hours.

Design/methodology/approachThe main methodology is a descriptive analysis that presents a cross-tabulation of the QOL indicators before and after access to mobile phones and the internet. A specific index of the Gini coefficient and Lorenz curve is also presented in relation to income distribution.

FindingsThe study found that access to telecommunication devices has contributed very little to closing the income gap in places where the mobile phone has had a slightly higher impact than internet access. The impact on self-reported participation and productivity is also similar in places where there is no strong evidence that access to both devices is sufficient to motivate users to become more involved and productive.

Research limitations/implicationsThe choice of the QOL variables is still under discussion. It also has to be said that the proxies for QOL are still very raw, as is the way of measuring it. The descriptive analysis does not provide the causality between the variables, and is rather an indication of the phenomenon – whether access to telecommunication devices leads to a better QOL index.

Practical implicationsThis paper indicates a need to design policies for the telecommunications sector in African countries with a stronger connection between access to and use of the devices and economic activities. The policy should also aim to reduce the polarisation of access and use by providing a telecommunications infrastructure in all the countries, thereby decreasing the cost of access and usage. Such policies require close collaboration between the governments and the private sector.

Originality/valueThis paper attempts to answer the research question of whether access to telecommunication devices, particularly mobile phones and the internet, has led to a better QOL in African countries. It indicates a need for telecommunications policies and infrastructure to reduce the polarisation of access and use.

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