Many claims are made about the transformational developmental impacts of new ICTs, particularly mobile phones, on Africa. However, such claims neglect other structural dynamics and the contradictory impacts of mobile phones, which can reduce, but also sometimes increase, poverty. This paper re-examines the role of mobile phones in African development and poverty, drawing on the concept of articulation. While mobile phones are meant to help “flatten” the world and allow for economic development through facilitating connection between places, they often serve to reinforce the dynamics of uneven development. Consequently, while mobile phones may be “socially articulating,” they recreate (new) forms of economic disarticulation, thereby replicating patterns of Africa’s adverse inclusion in the global economy. The occlusion of these dynamics in the literature arguably serves a useful ideological function: positing the mobile phone as a technical fix for what are primarily problems of power maldistribution.
information technology, economic structure, poverty, Africa