"I Don't Trust the Phone; It Always Lies": Trust and Information and Communication Technologies in Tanzanian Micro- and Small Enterprises

Thomas Molony


Despite its importance in African enterprise, the issue of "trust" is absent in information and communication technology for development scholarship. This article examines three case study subsectors of the Tanzanian economy to shed light on some of the complexities surrounding the sudden interface between traditional, established communication, and the increasing use of new information and communication technologies (ICTs). It seems from the case studies that, whereas mobile phones are indeed creating new forms of network in the twenty-first century, they are still far from being Africa's dominant form of network as Støvring (2004, 22) contends. The case studies reveal the overlap between social interaction and business in an African economy. Trust emerges as a common theme, and I discuss how important an issue it is in relation to the new form of communication that ICT provides for entrepreneurs in Africa. I suggest that, in relation to ICT in developing countries, trust might at this stage be separated from the more slippery concept of social capital that it is frequently associated with elsewhere. I then reflect on the implications of this for future research into ICT and its business and nonbusiness applications in developing countries. I conclude by suggesting that the need for direct, personal interaction through face-to-face contact—a traditional pre-ICT aspect of African business culture—is unlikely to change for some time.


Africa; Development; Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs); Tanzania; Social Interaction; Business; Developing Countries; Entrepreneurs; African Business Culture

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