Carving a Niche: ICT, Social Capital, and Trust in the Shift from Personal to Impersonal Trading in Tanzania

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Abstract

Although the research community is now starting to provide a more detailed understanding of the magnitude and details of small businesses' greater access to information and communication technology (ICT), there is still a poor understanding of social capital and trust, two important (but not necessarily related) concepts that are largely missing from information and communication technology for development (ICT4D) scholarship. This article aims to fill the knowledge gap by profiling three Tanzanian businesswomen who have managed to enter the high-profit area of bulk exporting African blackwood (“ebony”) carvings. Their experience shows the successful use of a spread of ICT applications, and e-mail in particular, as crucial tools to build on existing networks and to maintain trust with wealthy foreign buyers. With the help of ICT to deal with these relationships, the women stay in touch by “keeping up appearances” at a social level, albeit at a distance. In doing so, they are managing to do what institutions are yet to achieve: the move from personal to impersonal exchange. Their experience has implications for how other entrepreneurs can use ICT to leverage resources, ideas, and information from contacts outside their own social milieu.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-301
Number of pages19
JournalInformation Technology for Development
Volume15
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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