Systematic Reviews (SRs) | Tiny Impact of ICTs and Paucity of Rigorous Causal Studies: A Systematic Review of Urban MSMEs in the Developing World

P. Vigneswara Ilavarasan, Albert Otieno Orwa


This systematic review examines whether access to business-relevant information through networked devices enhances internal efficiency and business growth of urban micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in low- and middle-income countries. Starting from 24,000-plus records, rigorous screening yielded a set of 10 research articles from which data were extracted and a meta-analysis conducted. All were observational studies; none used an experimental or quasi-experimental design. Only five reported a probability sampling method, and the sample size ranged from 100–3,691. Except one, all had used self-reported data about ICT use. The review found: The numbers of business calls increase with the longer use of the mobile phones; ICT use and possession predict labor productivity; network devices improve operational support, strategic development, process improvement, and operational performance. Also, after the purchase of mobile phones, the number of customers increases. Higher ICT expenditure results in increased turnover. Profits increase with the use of mobile money. The quantitative meta-analysis shows that the impact on business growth and internal efficiency is statistically small. The research field lacks rigorous causal studies that link ICTs and MSME growth.


MSMEs, ICTs, systematic review, business growth, internal efficiency, urban

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