Simultaneous translation French / English
Wednesday 29 November, from 9.30am to 5.30pm (Abidjan time)
Thursday 30 November, from 10.00am to 12.00pm (Abidjan time)
ENSEA - National School of Statistics and Applied Economics
Avenue des Grandes Écoles
29 November 2023: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85245125505
30 November 2023: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88900226763
No registration is required.
The FERDI's Chair on Digital Trust is organising this conference to share the main results of the work carried out over the last four years, which led to the writing by Jenny C. Aker (Tufts University, FERDI) and Joël Cariolle (FERDI) of the book "Mobile phones and development in Africa: does the evidence meet the hype?", published by Palgrave Macmillan.
With the publication of this book, the Chair intends to reaffirm its conviction that digital trust is a prerequisite for Africa's emergence, when public and private players are able to appropriate digital technologies to meet the needs of the population and promote an endogenous development dynamic. This confidence is based primarily on the integrity, size and quality of the telecommunications network, as well as the reliability of information sharing. Thus, the spread of digital technologies, their reliability and their large-scale application, all of which bear witness to increased digital confidence, will condition the impact of digital technology on the well-being of populations, the development of productive capacities and the smooth running of public institutions and administrations.
The conference aims to contribute to debates on issues related with the digitalisation process on the African continent, and to make recommendations on ways of encouraging the scaling up of certain digital innovations, and thus ensure that the digitalisation process drives a dynamic that encourages emergence in the West African region. Discussions at the conference will combine recent academic knowledge on the subject with the experience of both public and private practitioners.
Over the past twenty years, the mobile phone has become a vital link with the 'outside world'. By providing access to ubiquitous services such as WhatsApp, email and social networks like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, the mobile phone has become an object that is difficult to do without or just to part with. Whereas we once used landlines to communicate with friends and physically went to the shops to pay for our shopping in cash, now we communicate, access information, buy goods and services, or even find work, remotely and at the touch of a screen.
In industrialised countries with a formalised private sector, developed infrastructures and functional public administrations, these technological advances often represent "comfort" innovations, improving the way they work. In low-income countries, particularly in rural areas, the spread of digital technologies plays a more structuring role. This is particularly true of mobile telephony, which in some remote areas is often the first modern communications infrastructure.
Worldwide, there are now more than 4.9 billion mobile phone subscribers, including 1.7 billion in Asia, 460 million in Latin America and around 495 million in sub-Saharan Africa (GSMA, various years). Adoption has taken place in different socio-economic and political environments, in countries with multiple languages, with different mobile phone and internet service providers and, in many cases, without substantial public sector investment.
Why is it so popular? Quite simply because the mobile phone (whether basic or smart) is a communication device, linking people together, providing access to information, markets and services at a much lower cost than traditional alternatives (Aker et Mbiti 2010, Aker et Blumenstock 2014, Aker, Ghosh et Burrell 2016). In Tanzania, farmers in Arusha can send an SMS to find out maize and sunflower prices in the capital, ten hours away by bus. In Niger, mobile phone technology has reduced price dispersion on the cereal and cowpea markets, mainly by improving the flow of information and spatial arbitrage (Aker 2010). In Nigeria, day labourers can call contacts in Benin to enquire about job opportunities without making the costly $40 journey. In Kenya, the introduction of mobile money has enabled households affected by shocks to access money transfers and smooth their consumption (Jack et Suri 2014). Yet, despite this potential, evidence of these 'success stories' is limited to specific sectors, countries and technologies, and on a larger scale their impact on people's well-being and livelihoods has yet to be demonstrated (Abate et al, 2023).
So the question of the role of information technology in development remains. While a growing body of research suggests that mobile phones are doing exactly what they promised - reducing research costs, increasing access to information and financial services, and making markets more efficient - public and private sector initiatives have not fully met expectations, especially in rural areas (Abate et al, 2023).
The aim of this conference is therefore to take stock of the process of digitalisation for development on the African continent, by offering, in the first session, a general economic overview through the presentation of the book "Mobile phones and development in Africa: Does the evidence meet the hype?" co-authored by Jenny C. Aker and Joël Cariolle, and published by Palgrave McMillan. A second panel will round off the discussion by looking at the potential of the digital innovation process for African entrepreneurship and enterprise. A third panel will look at the key issue of mobilising public revenue and digitising the tools used to collect and manage it. Finally, the conference will extend the issue of digitalisation to the socio-political sphere, with a final panel devoted to access to information via the internet and the risk posed by misinformation and disinformation to the functioning of African democratic institutions.
10:00 - 12:00
Moderation: Lewis Landry Gakpa, Lecturer at ENSEA
Digital innovation at the service of entrepreneurship and African business
Public revenue mobilisation and digitalisation
Moderation: Alban Ahouré, Professor at Université Félix-Houphouët-Boigny, Director of CAPEC, and Université Internationale de Côte d'Ivoire
Information or misinformation technology? Internet and democracy in sub-Saharan Africa
Presentation of the article "(Mis-)information technology : Internet use and perception of democracy in Africa" by Yasmine Elkhateeb (Université Paris 1, University of Cairo). Co-authors: Joël Cariolle (FERDI), Mathilde Maurel (Université Paris 1).