Engagement in the Knowledge Economy: Regional Patterns of Content Creation with a Focus on Sub-Saharan Africa

Sanna Ojanperä, Mark Graham, Ralph Straumann, Stefano De Sabbata, Matthew Zook


Increasing digital connectivity has sparked many hopes for the democratization of information and knowledge production in sub-Saharan Africa. To investigate the patterns of knowledge creation in the region compared to other world regions, we examine three key metrics: spatial distributions of academic articles (traditional knowledge production), collaborative software development, and Internet domain registrations (digitally mediated knowledge production). We find that, contrary to the expectation that digital content is more evenly geographically distributed than academic articles, the global and regional patterns of collaborative coding and domain registrations are more uneven than those of academic articles. Despite hopes for democratization afforded by the information revolution, sub-Saharan Africa produces a smaller share of digital content than academic articles. Our results suggest the factors often framed as catalysts in the transformation into a knowledge economy do not relate to the three metrics uniformly. While connectivity is an important enabler of digital content creation, it seems to be only a necessary, not a sufficient, condition; wealth, innovation capacity, and public spending on education are also important factors.


digital divide, information geographies, geographies of knowledge, GitHub, domain registrations, international development

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