Microentrepreneurs and Mobiles: An Exploration of the Uses of Mobile Phones by Small Business Owners in Rwanda

Jonathan Donner

Abstract


Despite a worldwide boom in mobile phone ownership, studies of the social and economic implications of mobile telephone use in the developing world are rare. Approaching mobile phone usage from the individual level, the study uses Q methodology to ask 31 owners of urban micro and small enterprises (MSEs) in Kigali, Rwanda to articulate what using the mobile means to them. The exercise identified four distinct perspectives on mobile use among the participants. One perspective sees it as a device for the pursuit of instrumental business goals. A second perspective uses mobiles to satisfy emotional or intrinsic needs. Two other perspectives mix instrumental and intrinsic elements, seeing mobiles as productivity enhancers, or as simply indispensable. Taken together, these distinct perspectives illustrate a range of intended uses and gratifications among MSE owners, and suggest numerous paths for future research. Q methodology is discussed in some detail so that researchers can consider its utility as a way to understand users of information and communication technologies.

Keywords


Microentrepreneurs; Mobile Phone; Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs); Rwanda; Communication Technologies

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