ICT for Entrepreneurship – Proposal
Here is the beginnings of my research proposal. Any feedback, tips, thoughts, ideas are most appreciated.
To what extent does the African entrepreneur use ICTs as a business tool? Through the perspective of the respective user, what is the relationship with ICTs and how have these new media tools become embedded in the business process? What are the social changes given their implementation and use of new ICTs and what might be the role of ICTs in the coming years?
Knowledge is power. Information and data are the tools needed to navigate today’s increasingly complex and globally linked marketplace. Unfortunately, Africa’s entrepreneur remains relatively unconnected when compared to other parts of the world. At the same time, their social and economic contribution is often underestimated by government bodies, banks, investors, equity partners, and related institutions that could otherwise assist them in the development of their business. In this context the African entrepreneur is left to navigate alone.
At the same time, Entrepreneurs are increasingly recognized as an important key to economic development. An increasing body of research argues that entrepreneurs, and their small to medium size enterprises, hold great potential for the continent’s development. Entrepreneurs are vital to building a healthy and stable society. They help to create an important middle class and are an invaluable source of jobs, tax revenue, foreign currency and a number of tertiary benefits.
The aim of the ICT for Entrepreneurship project is to map out the ICTs currently present in both urban and rural settings (in so far that they are related to entrepreneurship). The aim is to track their emergence and current status in society and to better understand the power of ICTs in collecting, organizing and distributing data and information. In building this framework, the relevant stakeholders, their interest and contribution to the development and use of ICTs for entrepreneurship will be taken into consideration.
In short, the aim of the project is to build an improved understanding of how the African entrepreneur can leverage ICTs to further their own livelihood.
Keywords: ICT, Information, Connections, Mobility, Nomad, Mobile, Internet, Developer, Entrepreneur, SME, Micro credit, Banking
In the effort to answer these questions I plan to travel to Uganda for a period of two months (April and May 2009). The two months will be used to collect a wide variety of data that will be used to frame the thesis and research project.
Collecting and Analyzing Information
For the research project I am to use an ethnographic approach and will spend the bulk of my field research interviewing and speaking with entrepreneurs and people who are directly or indirectly linked to SME development. Furthermore, I will spend a considerable amount of time visiting locations where entrepreneurs come together to find and share information. I.e. Internet cafes and business centers. The aim will be to observe various behaviors and to engage in one on one conversation. If possible, there might be opportunities to lead small group workshops. The aim of this work is to collect important personal views and opinions that will give the project further direction and act as concrete case studies needed to support certain arguments.
I will also work to collect written materials, copies of e-mails, SMS messages and other artifacts that might be of interest to the project. Finally, I will be looking into what kind of quantitative analysis might be useful for the project and how I would go about collecting and analyzing the data.
Information Sources for Field Research
Internet Cafes – How are users accessing information, what are they looking for, how much are they willing to pay and what does this mean for their business?
Business Centers – What are the different types of business centers, what are the ICT services that they offer, which are the most popular and what are the innovative business models/services they offer?
Markets – Who works at the market and why, what is the relation between the product, the buyer and the seller? What is the role of ICT in this process?
Bus Stations – Infrastructure, the transfer of goods, what is being shipped, where and why? How do traders use ICTs in the transfer of their goods?
Community Radio Stations – What are the macro economic challenges facing larger groups of entrepreneurs? What are the issues the community center works to address and how are ICTs part of the information and awareness process?
Micro Finance Institutions – How do MicroFinance institutions facilitate loans and investments in Small and Medium size enterprises? What is the role of information, technology and ICT in facilitating this process?
The research approach will consist of direct, first-hand observation of daily behavior. The research will focus on the ‘end user’ experience and could include some of the following techniques.
• Conversation with different levels of formality – This can involve small talk and long interviews. We will also seek out local government officials, managers of multinationals and other groups that can give us insight into the macro economic developments.
• Detailed work with key consultants about particular areas of community life – From previous UvA related research, we know that experts and local consultants hold a wealth of knowledge as they deal with these issues professionally and on a day to day basis. We aim to liaison our work with this select group.
• In-depth interviewing – In addition to the ‘end users’ we aim to conduct in-depth interviews with local actors and stakeholders who can give us an overview and broader insight into the behavior of individual user groups i.e. the owner of a large internet cafe, the manager of a local radio station, the local governor and so on.
• Discovery of local beliefs and perceptions – Via extensive interviewing (chit-chat, short and long) we aim to uncover some of the local beliefs and perceptions. We believe this is fundamental to our better understanding of user behavior.
• Problem-oriented research – We will be looking at local problems specific to the location and look into how the users work to overcome these hurdles. I.e. flooding, electricity outages, elections or other anomalies that add unique depth to our work.
• Longitudinal research. This is continuous long-term study of an area or site – We aim to spend between 6 and 8 weeks within a specific geographic region. This is in our interest to focus our research and to deepen our understanding of one specific geographic location.
• Team research – We will compare our field research with each other and look to see where we find commonalities and where we see differences. We will work as a team to understand our individual results given the group context.
• Case Studies – Community centers, information centers and other organized places where the users congregate. These centers could potentially be a source of larger bodies of data needed to support our observations.
Preparation: 1 September 2008 to 1 April 2009
Field Research: 1 April 2009 to 1 June 2009
Writing: 1 June 2009 to 15 July 2009
Revision: 15 July 2009 to 15 August 2009
Defense: August 20 2009
The fieldwork will be done from April to May.
The analysis and written work will be done from June to August.
Introduction: Outline the research question, introduce the major arguments and outline the research approach.
Chapter 1: Clearly outline the role of entrepreneurs and Small and Medium Size Enterprises and the role this segment plays in the continued development of the continent.
Chapeter 2: Outline the different ICTs present and clearly segment them by their relevance to the research question. Explain why the research focuses on Internet and Mobile as the two leading mediums of study.
Chapter 3: Introduce previous studies related to the research question and put the authors into context for the research project. Indicate which research is relevant to the project and which research is disputed and why.
Chapter 4: Introduce the research approach and methodologies. Outline any issues to take into consideration and clearly support the choice of country and technique used in the study.
Chapter 5: Introduce the findings and the results.
Chapter 6: Give an analysis of the findings and identify the main questions that come out of the field research.
Chapter 7: Compare the findings with previous research done in the past. Find commonalities and explore disparities within this analysis.
Conclusion: Extrapolate the major points and issues that were the most poignant and clear to the project. Position them within the argument of the paper and raise any final questions. Outline questions moving forward.
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If you have thoughts, questions, ideas or contacts please feel free to contact me !