Understanding the Impact of Mobile Phones on Livelihoods in Developing Countries

22 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2014

Date Written: September 2014


Mobile phones are spreading rapidly in developing countries, but research conceptualisations have been lagging behind practice, particularly those that link mobile phones to livelihoods. This article seeks to fill this gap in two ways. First, by means of a literature review which analyses how they impact upon assets – through facilitating asset substitution, enhancement, combination, exchange and forms of disembodiment. On this basis key roles for mobile phones are defined within livelihood strategies. Secondly, the analysis demonstrates the shortcomings of the livelihoods framework for understanding technological innovation; its agriculture‐oriented understanding of assets; its silence on the developmental role of information and on user appropriation of technology; and its narrow categorisation of impact. Ways of addressing these shortcomings are suggested, pointing towards areas of future research and application.

Keywords: Mobile phones, innovation, livelihoods, developing countries

Suggested Citation

Duncombe, Richard A., Understanding the Impact of Mobile Phones on Livelihoods in Developing Countries (September 2014). Development Policy Review, Vol. 32, Issue 5, pp. 567-588, 2014, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2478965 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/dpr.12073

Richard A. Duncombe (Contact Author)

University of Manchester ( email )

Oxford Road
Manchester, M13 9PL
United Kingdom

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