P.Vigneswara Ilvarasan and Mark Levy have just made available the final report from their exciting and innovative IDRC funded research on the use of ICTs by urban micro-enterprises in Mumbai, employing fewer than 20 hired workers. This is one of the most important analyses of ICTs and entrepreneurs that I have recently read. The methodology is much more rigorous than that of most research in the field of ICT4D, which means that considerable credence can be placed on the reliability of the results. Some 329 male owners or managers of micro-enterprises, and 231 female owners were interviewed between April and June 2009, and a further 102 men and women were surveyed in September and November 2009.
Whilst I might have some quibbles over definitions – surely in general usage, the term micro-enterprise is used to refer to much smaller units than those employing 20 people – this is a really excellent piece of research that deserves widespread citation. Its key findings are:
- “Nearly everyone who owned or managed a microenterprise—regardless of sex—had a mobile phone.
- Many female and male microentrepreneurs who owned or managed microenterprises and who used a mobile for business communication reported that the year-over-year income of their business had risen.
- Urban microentrepreneurs experience different levels of economic growth depending on how they use their mobiles for business communication.
- The positive impact of mobile phones on microenterprises might emerge only after two years of use. Microentrepreneurs who owned a mobile for two years or less saw some growth in business income; those who had begun to use their mobile more than two years earlier experienced even greater income growth.
- Levels of PC ownership and usage at home and work were low.
- Few microentrepreneurs frequented Internet cafés for business purposes.
- Only small numbers used their mobiles for the full range of business-enhancing activities.
- Consideration of a microentrepreneur’s full repertoire of ICT use showed a positive relationship with microenterprise growth, especially when other factors such as gender and motivation were also taken into account.
- Compared to women-owned microenterprises, microenterprises owned or managed by men had much greater increases in business income, although female owned microenterprises also experience some growth
- The more positive a female microentrepreneur felt about her status and power because of her business, the more she was motivated to use ICTs in support of her business.
- The more that a woman entrepreneur used mobile phones, workplace computers, etc., the more her microenterprise grew, especially businesses in the trade sector of the informal economy.”
Thanks Vignesh and Mark for enriching us with this important study.