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Posts tagged BPO
Digital Control in Value Chains: Challenges of Connectivity for East African Firms

 

I'm happy to report on a new co-authored paper that I have out. The piece asks what difference changing connectivity has made for East African firms. The piece emerges from a multi-year study on Development and Broadband Internet Access in East Africa that evolved into my current 'Geonet' project.

Foster, C., Graham, M., Mann, L., Waema, T., and Friederici, N. 2017. Digital Control in Value Chains: Challenges of Connectivity for East African FirmsEconomic Geography. 94(1) 68-86.

Summary

In recent years, Internet connectivity has greatly improved across the African continent. This article examines the consequences that this shift has had for East African firms that are part of global value chains (GVCs). Prior work yielded contradictory expectations: firms might benefit from connectivity through increased efficiencies and improved access to markets, although they might also be further marginalized through increasing control of lead firms. Drawing on extensive qualitative research in Kenya and Rwanda, including 264 interviews, we examine 3 sectors (tea, tourism, and business process outsourcing) exploring overarching, cross-cutting themes. The findings support more pessimistic expectations: small African producers are only thinly digitally integrated in GVCs. Moreover, shifting modes of value chain governance, supported by lead firms and facilitated by digital information platforms and data standards are leading to new challenges for firms looking to digitally integrate. Nevertheless, we also find examples in these sectors of opportunities where small firms are able to cater to emerging niche customers, and local or regional markets. Overall, the study shows that improving connectivity does not inherently benefit African firms in GVCs without support for complementary capacity and competitive advantages.

Related work

Foster, C. and Graham, M. 2017. Reconsidering the Role of the Digital in Global Production Networks. Global Networks. 17(1) 68-88 DOI: 10.1111/glob.12142.

Friederici, N. Ojanperä, S., and Graham, M. 2017. The Impact of Connectivity in Africa: Grand Visions and the Mirage of Inclusive Digital Development. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries. 79(2) 1-20. 

Mann, L and Graham, M. 2016 The Domestic Turn: Business Process Outsourcing and the Growing Automation of Kenyan Organisations. Journal of Development Studies 52:4, 530-548, DOI: 10.1080/00220388.2015.1126251.

Graham, M., Mann, L., Friederici, N. and Waema, T. 2016. Growing the Kenyan Business Process Outsourcing SectorThe African Technopolitan. 5 93-95

Graham, M. 2015. Contradictory Connectivity: Spatial Imaginaries and Techno-Mediated Positionalities in Kenya's Outsourcing Sector. Environment and Planning A 47 867-883 (pre-publicaion version here).

Mann, L., Graham, M., and Friederici, N. 2015. The Internet and Business Process Outsourcing in East Africa. Oxford Internet Institute Report, Oxford, UK.

Growing the Kenyan Business Process Outsourcing Sector (new publication)

A new publication of ours in now out in The African Technopolitan. Graham, M., Mann, L., Friederici, N. and Waema, T. 2016.  Growing the Kenyan Business Process Outsourcing SectorThe African Technopolitan. 5 93-95

The short piece is based on our longer report on the Internet and Business Process Outsourcing in East Africa. It offers a summary of our key recommendations from the report.

See also:

Mann, L., Graham, M. and Friederici, N. 2015.  The Internet and Business Process Outsourcing in East Africa. Oxford Internet Institute Report, Oxford, UK. Mann, L and Graham, M. 2015 

The Domestic Turn: Business Process Outsourcing and the Growing Automation of Kenyan OrganisationsJournal of Development Studies (in press).

Graham, M. 2015. Contradictory Connectivity: Spatial Imaginaries and Techno-Mediated Positionalities in Kenya’s Outsourcing Sector. Environment and Planning A  47 867-883 (pre-publicaion version here).

Graham, M., Andersen, C., and Mann, L. 2015  Geographical Imagination and Technological Connectivity in East Africa. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 40(3) 334-349. ( pre-publication version here).

New article published: Imagining a Silicon Savannah? Technological and Conceptual Connectivity in Kenya’s BPO and Software Development


Laura Mann and I have just had a paper about Kenya’s ‘Silicon Savannah’ published in the Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries.

Check out the brief abstract below or the full, open access, link to the paper: Graham, M. and L. Mann. 2013. Imagining a Silicon Savannah? Technological and Conceptual Connectivity in Kenya’s BPO and Software Development Sectors. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries 56(2). 1-19.

Abstract:

This is a paper about expectations surrounding a potentially highly transformative moment in East Africa’s history: the arrival of underwater fibre-optic broadband communications cables into the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa. It combines a media content analysis with findings from interviews with business owners in Kenya’s nascent business process outsourcing (BPO) and software development sectors in order to explore how such moments of technological ‘connectivity’ are imagined, marketed and enacted within economic development. It argues that connectivity is not just a matter of boosting physical/material capacity but also about redressing conceptual connectivity; bringing places ‘closer together’ involves rehabilitating the images of places in peoples’ minds and removing imagined senses of distance. As such, technologies of connectivity are marketed not just as tools of altered communications affordances, but more importantly, as momentary opportunities for revisiting the image of places from afar. Additionally, the cables reveal the importance of fostering internal linkages in order to better build international recognition and connections. ‘Moments of expectation’ that surround new ICT technologies reveal how discourse and representation play a strong role in enabling markets to form and change. The very idea of ‘connectivity’ itself is driving plans and policies throughout the region.