Bridging the digital divide in Africa via universal service funds: an institutional theory perspective

Emmanuel Ogiemwonyi Arakpogun*, Jason Whalley, Roseline Wanjiru, Ziad Elsahn, Rama Krishna Reddy Kummitha

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to provide evidence-based policy recommendations for improving the implementation of universal service funds (USF) with a view to closing the digital divide in Africa. Design/methodology/approach: The paper adopts a qualitative approach that draws examples from various African countries supported by 25 interviews from key stakeholders with hands-on experience and roles that shape telecommunications policy in Africa and other developing countries. Findings: The study's findings point out that institutional voids which characterize several African countries inhibit the effectiveness of USF in African countries. The authors identify several institutional and organisational factors and explain how they negatively affect the performance of USF. The authors find that in order to overcome these obstacles, there is a need for a clear redefinition of Universal Access and Service (UAS) policies, restructuring the governance of USF, encouraging cross-sectoral collaborations, and bottom-up initiatives to bridge the digital divide in African countries. Originality/value: The paper contributes to the underexplored USF literature by shedding light on the role of institutional factors in determining the success of USF. The paper thus complements and provides a different perspective on promoting digital inclusion in Africa from the viewpoint of institutional voids, bringing new insights into the existing literature on how to deal with an intractable area of UAS policy and the wider digital divide debate in developing countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-154
Number of pages29
JournalInformation Technology and People
Volume36
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2023

Keywords

  • Africa
  • Digital divide
  • Institutional voids
  • Mobile telecommunications
  • Universal service funds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences

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