The Role of Mobile Phones in Tanzania’s Informal Construction Sector: The Case of Dar es Salaam

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This paper explores how mobile phones are being used by informal construction workers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It reveals that ownership of mobile phones is stratified along employment lines. This observation acts as a good indicator of what is now perhaps the biggest split in employment in many developing economies: a split between a stratum of employers and middlemen (who in Dar es Salaam’s informal construction sector are also mostly using mobile phones), and a stratum of employees, apprentices, family labourers and marginal-owner operators (who are generally not using mobile phones). The applicability of government policy on information and communication technology (ICT) is assessed in the context of these findings. This leads to the suggestion that since Tanzania’s small-enterprise development policy concentrates on use of the internet, much of this is irrelevant to the majority of informal-sector construction enterprises which – when they do use ICT – rely almost exclusively on mobile phones as a significant cost-saving device.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-186
Number of pages12
JournalUrban Forum
Issue number2
Early online date29 Apr 2008
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


  • Construction industry
  • Small-scale enterprises
  • Informal sector
  • Information and communication technology
  • Job creation
  • Dar es Salaam


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