Graduation Year

2019

Date of Submission

12-2018

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

International Relations

Reader 1

Roderic Camp

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© 2019 Kara I Schachter

Abstract

This thesis analyzes the connection of mobile phone technology to increased economic development in Kenya. Drawing on previous research, I first examine the state of development by analyzing social, political, and economic factors in Kenya in 2007/2008. I then examine the role of technology on these development factors in Kenya by focusing on the rapid rise of mobile money platform M-Pesa and the rise of decentralized banking. This thesis finds that M-Pesa’s success stems from the failure of public trust in traditional institutions, collaboration between the public, private, and nonprofit sector, initial lack of regulation to promote innovation, and heavy consumer testing to create the best product-market fit. Additionally, in comparison to other sub-Saharan countries, Kenya’s institutions have more willingly allowed for nontraditional methods of investment and aid. While none of these results are entirely conclusive, evidence suggests that the rise of mobile money and technological innovation has attributed heavily to economic development into 2018, but that social and political development factors are still restrained. Ultimately, technology is not the solution to all factors of cyclical poverty, but it can create new approaches to previously neglected development constraints.

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