Publication: Researching ICT Micro-Enterprise in Developing Countries

Foster, C.G., Heeks, R.B., 2010. Researching ICT Micro-Enterprise in Developing Countries: Themes, Wider Concepts and Future Directions. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 43, 1–20.
Full paper


The purpose of this paper is to examine the current state of knowledge on ICT micro-enterprise in developing countries and provide guidance for future research. It does this by reviewing two strands of literature. In the first, it reviews the literature related to ICT micro-enterprises, focussing particularly on two sub-sectors that might be considered successful, mobile entrepreneurship and the Nigerian video-film industry. It draws out three key themes that are addressed in the literature – the significance of local networks and supply chains; strategies of niches and appropriation; and the importance of context.

This analysis also reveals a significant weakness in the literature. Studies have generally made a close focus on the local practices and technology actions of such micro-enterprises, but there has been little analysis of such micro-enterprise within wider conceptual frameworks, which means that there are significant gaps relating to understanding of the developmental role and potential of such ICT micro-enterprise.

Thus, the broader development literature is reviewed related to the three key themes that were identified. This wider literature highlights three conceptual literatures – enterprise clustering and upgrading, base-of-the-pyramid markets, and urban development – that are able to offer some useful lenses for researching ICT micro-enterprise, as well as highlighting potential future research directions.

Earlier version

Foster, C.G., Heeks, R.B., 2010. A Model for Understanding ICT Micro-Enterprise in Developing Countries, Background Paper for UNCTAD Information Economy Report 2010.