Many Million Microphones: How Information and Communication Technologies are Changing sub-Saharan Africa Open Access
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Experts in many academic fields debate the causes of the poverty that envelops most of sub-Saharan Africa. Unmitigated conflict, corrupt leadership, disease, lack of education and resources and other reasons are cited as possible causes for the continuing destitution. All of these experts and most of the world's people agree that this situation must be changed, yet there is no agreement on how this can be accomplished. Despite the billions of dollars of development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa, most countries remain impoverished. In the past five years, the usage of communications tools such as mobile phones and Internet connectivity has increased significantly as costs that were once prohibitively high have dropped. Along with these tools have come sporadic accounts of their users accessing health services and increasing their earning. Academic studies have suggested that a connection exists between access to communications devices and increased prosperity, measured both in terms of health outcomes and financial well-being. These studies bring to mind the question of whether problems of communication and access to information technology have caused the stagnation of sub-Saharan Africa. This thesis assesses the possibility that mobile and wireless communication tools can improve the prosperity and health of the region. To analyze this subject, this thesis examined research about the impact of telecoms, specifically mobile phones and Internet access, on economic growth and health outcomes. The argument is as follows: while recognizing the contributions of other factors, a cause of the persistent destitution in sub-Saharan Africa is the communicative isolation of its people. Therefore, access to information and communication technologies will improve their economic and social welfare. I found there to be good reasons to encourage and support the use of ICTs in developing countries, despite the potential negatives.