The first stage of the project aims to broadly understand the diversity of new practices in Sub Saharan Africa’s knowledge economy. We define the knowledge economy as a combination of IT-enabled services, the quaternary sector of the economy, and more informal processes and practices of IT-mediated information production that tend to get left out of more formal models.
The work in this stage will focus on three research questions:
1. What are the geographies of Sub-Saharan Africa’s knowledge economies? (looking at both formal economic activities and less formal forms of knowledge production)
2. How are those geographies changing over time?
3. What factors explain these geographies?
Together, these questions will allow us to ask what new economic practices and processes are taking root in Sub Saharan Africa as a result of changing connectivities.
Methods and Data
This work will involve a combination of archival research and bespoke original methods.
We will collect data about where the quaternary sector and It-enabled services in Sub-Saharan Africa are based. We will perform archival searches and conduct exploratory interviews with government associations, third-sector organisations, and key firms in the technology clusters of Accra, Cape Town, Lagos, and Nairobi, to find out about the locations of innovation labs, software companies, call centres, consulting firms, design firms etc.
These data will also be supplemented with important metrics of knowledge production in Sub Saharan Africa, including from traditional data sources such as the geographies of patents, academic journal articles, intellectual property imports vs. exports, Internet exchange point traffic, and number of Internet hosts etc.
Additionally, a significant proportion of the raw data will map the information shadows and online participation of places. These methods (custom-designed computer code to ‘scrape’ online information) will allow us to obtain insights into sub-Saharan Africa’s online and mobile participation that are unavailable in more traditional datasets.
Understanding both the geographies of Sub-Saharan Africa’s knowledge economies and the ways that they have been changing will allow us to develop insights into how those geographies can be explained.
This work-package therefore aims to offer insights into Sub-Saharan Africa’s rapidly changing positionalities: enabling understandings of the geographies of SSA’s knowledge economies and the locally contingent factors that contribute to their genesis.