ICT for Entrepreneurship – Proposal

Here is the beginnings of my research proposal. Any feedback, tips, thoughts, ideas are most appreciated.

Research Question

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?

Abstract
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

Proposal
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?

Research Methods
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.

Timetable

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.

Chapter Outline

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.

Bibliography
The University of Leiden group, Connections and Transformations: The Social Construction of Linking Technologies in Africa and Beyond.

‘I Don’t Trust the Phone; It Always Lies’- Trust and Information and Communication Technologies in Tanzanian Micro- and Small Enterprises, Thomas Molony, Centre of African Studies

The Internet in an African LDC: Uganda Case Study, International Telecommunication Union, 2001

Development as Freedom, A Virtuous Circle? Afro Barometer, A comparative series of national public attitude surveys on democracy, markets and civil society in Afirca, John Gay

ICT and society in Sudan: a critical historical-anthropological approach
Mirjam de Bruijn and Inge Brinkman, Catholic University of Leuven, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 13-15, December 2007.

Media Worlds, anthropology on new terrain, Ginsburg, Faye D.

Incommunicado Reader, Geert Lovink and Soenke Zehle

Utilizing Community Media in a Digital Age Practitioners’ reflexions from an interactive roundtable at the World Congress on Communication for Development

User-led innovations in mobile use in sub-Saharan Africa Jonathan Donner, ©2007 The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Information Technologies and International Development, Volume3, Number2, Winter2006, 3–19.

e-Governance in Africa 
From Theory to Action, A Handbook on ICTs for Local Governance Gianluca C. Misuraca.

Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in Mobile Use by NGOs
Authors: Sheila Kinkade, Katrin Verclas, MobileActive.org, The Vodafone Group

MTC Group. Mobility: A Nation Under Siege. An insight into mobile communications during the 2006 Lebanon conflict (MTC Group, 2007).

Rapid Assessment of Cell Phones for Development (UNICEF, 2007). Shackleton, Sally Jean.

The Dynamics of Entrepreneurship in ICT, Case of mobile phones downstream services in Kenya

TheorizingICT4DResearch, School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester, Richard Heeks

Fighting Poverty, Utilizing Community Media in a Digital Age, Practitioners’ reflexions from an interactive roundtable at the World Congress on Communication for Development, WCCD

eChoupals: A Study on the Financial Sustainability of
Village Internet Centers in Rural Madhya Pradesh, Science, Technology and Society Program MIT, Richa Kumar

Using the Livelihoods Framework to Analyze ICT Applications for Poverty Reduction through Microenterprise, University of Manchester, Richard Duncombe

ICT Usage and Its Impact on Profitability of SMEs in 13 African Countries, Ali Ndiwalana Makerere University oped using mobile phones.

The Use of Mobile Phones by Micro entrepreneurs in Kigali,
Rwanda: Changes to Social and Business Networks, Microsoft Research, Jonathan Donner

Orientalism, Edward Said

Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen

The Internet as a Self-Organizing Socio-Technological System, Human Strategies in Complexity, Research Paper, Christian Fuchs

Control and Freedom, Power and Paranoia in the age of fiber optics, Wendy Hui Kyong, Chun.

The New Media Reader, MIT Press

Closing

If you have thoughts, questions, ideas or contacts please feel free to contact me !

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About zia505

The world is changing right before my eyes. Sometimes I don't know how I will ever keep up. There are so many ideas floating around on this internet. If only I had the means to collect them....

3 responses to “ICT for Entrepreneurship – Proposal”

  1. Isreal Oladayo says :

    Dear sir,
    i want you to shed light on one issue that is bothering my mind i love ICT and love to fully be it , i did an Oracle DB course but could’nt take the certified examination for lack of fund but i’m an economics graduate from a reputable university i want to draft a proposal on networking precisely for an organisation .let me give you a brief; It will be inform of a feedback platform where the organisation will give response to their community using a database where community can be reached which can be provided by me. i need the equipments needed ,their usage, and how to go about it. looking forward to your reply and a possible business relationship
    yours sincerely
    Isreal

  2. Fitsum Girmachew says :

    The major difficulty in Ethiopia regarding ICT as a business tool is awareness.
    The other issue that I want to raise is mostly the majority of the business will be done with out the aid of the ICT technologies with the traditional trends even if there is a change regarding to awareness to this regard it is very limited to the capital city and even the one they know the advantage of the information they largely suffer from shortage of support and services provided.
    Technology aligned business are profitable and sustainable but even the ICT infrastructure is very costy for the business man to invest on.
    due to this and other unmentioned factors ICT usage is very limited .

  3. Maria says :

    Dear Sir,
    I am interested with your writing. Would you please also share the result of this research?
    Actually right now, I am working in one small foundation, that is focus on entrepreneur. We give a scholarship through university and also the capacity building. Right now our board pushed us to make the fund raising strategy for this activity. I just want to learn for many entrepreneur proposals that’s why I encourage my self to send this email to you.

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