All Work and No Play? Judging the Uses of Mobile Phones in Developing Countries

Araba Sey, Peppino Ortoleva


Despite the multiplicity of affordances embedded in information and communication technologies (ICTs), most ICTs for development (ICTD) interventions tend to expect that technology will be used primarily for “serious” purposes. However, user behaviors suggest that leisure-related activities feature prominently compared to other behaviors considered more likely to generate development outcomes. Theories about play developed by philosophers, psychologists, and anthropologists offer useful ideas to understand these ludic behaviors. This article reviews typical stances toward mobile phone use within the ICTD community and argues for a reframing of ICTD discourse that acknowledges playful uses of technology as essential for personal development and adaptation to social and technological change.

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