Researching ICT-Based Enterprise in Developing Countries: Analytical Tools and Models

Richard Heeks


This paper provides a guide for those researching ICT-based enterprises in developing countries. Examples of such enterprises would include telecentres, cybercafés, mobile phone shops, Internet service providers, software companies, IT training firms, IT consultancies, hardware assemblers, data entry operators, and so forth. This may also be called the IT or ICT sector, or the digital or knowledge economy.

The paper offers a series of "lenses" – i.e. analytical frameworks – through which to investigate these enterprises. They move from basic classificatory models to those that can analyse competitive strategy, impact, context and the enterprise lifecycle. In each case, the paper provides an explanation of basic concepts, and a sense of what research using the particular framework would offer.

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Educator's guide

Synopsis questions

  1. In what ways can we classify ICT-based enterprises in developing countries? [Parts A & B]
  2. How can we understand competition between developing country IBEs? [Part C]
  3. Compare the different ways in which impact of developing country ICT-based enterprises can be assessed. [Part D]
  4. How could you research the context of developing country IBEs? [Part E]
  5. What is the "enterprise lifecycle" and how can it be studied in the case of ICT-based enterprises in developing countries? [Part F]
  6. What other tools can be used to research developing country IBEs? [Part G]

Development questions

  1. What is missing from this paper: what other analytical frameworks could be used to research ICT-based enterprise in developing countries?
  2. Many of the ideas and models are drawn from generic enterprise research, including generic research from industrialised countries. Does this present any problems for research specifically about IBEs in developing countries?
  3. Use one (or more) of the analytical frameworks to produce a short proposal for new research on IBEs in developing countries.
  4. Identify an example of research on developing country IBEs. Which, if any, of the listed analytical frameworks does it use?
  5. The paper says nothing about underlying ontology and epistemology. Does it at least provide a consistent implicit perspective on these?