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Title: The Paradox of Mobility in the Kenyan ICT Ecosystem: An Ethnographic Case of How the Youth in Kibera Slum Use and Appropriate the Mobile Phone and the Mobile Internet
Authors: Kibere, Faith N.
First Published: 15-Jul-2016
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Citation: Information Technology for Development, 2016, 22 (sup1), pp. 47-67
Abstract: The Kenyan ICT ecosystem has attracted vast global media and policy attention because of notable mobile phone adoption in the country. However, empirical research of how Kenyans use and appropriate new media and ICTs in the diverse contexts within the country remains limited. In order to contribute to the emerging literature on Sub-Saharan Africa ICT ecosystems as well as the Mobility discussions within Mobiles for Development M4D and Information and Communication Technologies for Development ICT4D, this paper discusses an empirical case of how the youth of Kibera use and appropriate the mobile phone and the mobile Internet. The purpose of this critical realist ethnographic research article is to explicate the events in the historical development of the Kenyan ICT ecosystem as well as the components of social and physical structure in Kibera slum along with the relationships between them. This paper argues that the mobile phone eases communication and strengthens existent social ties for the youth of Kibera. However, it cannot bypass the hierarchical nature of Kenya where “class and place of residence are distinctive social markers in the process of social networking” [Wallis, C. (2011). Mobile phones without guarantees: The promises of technology and the contingencies of culture. New Media & Society, 13(3), 471–485. Wallis, C. (2013). Technomobility in China: Young migrant women and mobile phones. New York, NY: New York University Press]. Therefore, the young Kiberans predominantly use and appropriate the mobile phone to network with those in the same lower income strata. This is because they are widely perceived in Kenyan society as the “other and what does not belong” because they are slum residents [Hall, S. (2013). The spectacle of the other. In S. Hall, J. Evans, & S. Nixon (Eds.), Representation: Cultural representations and signifying practices (2nd ed., pp. 223–283). Sage. p. 257].
DOI Link: 10.1080/02681102.2016.1155144
ISSN: 0268-1102
eISSN: 1554-0170
Version: Publisher Version
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © the author, 2016. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License (, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of Media and Communication

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