Innovation and Inequality

Innovation and Inequality

Emerging Technologies in an Unequal World

Edited by Susan Cozzens and Dhanaraj Thakur

Inequality is one of the main features of globalization. Do emerging technologies, as they spread around the world, contribute to more inequality or less? This unique interdisciplinary text examines the relationships between emerging technologies and social, economic and other forms of inequality.

Chapter 5: Chain of champions: global inequalities and mobile phones

Dhanaraj Thakur, Bernd Beckert, Isabel Bortagaray, Roland Brouwer and Lidia Brito

Subjects: development studies, development studies, innovation and technology, innovation policy, technology and ict, politics and public policy, public policy


As with many information and communication technologies, the mobile phone has come to be perceived as a necessary accessory of modern life. In fact wireless communication technologies such as mobile phones have diffused faster globally than previous communications technologies (Castells et al., 2007). Along with this rapid diffusion are associated changes in society that are both causes and effects. The question we address in this chapter is what are the distributional consequences of the production and diffusion of mobile phones. To answer this, we are able draw on case studies from all eight countries included in the larger study. This is only one of two chapters in the book (along with recombinant insulin) with this luxury, a fact that points not only to the ubiquity of mobile phones but also to the maturity of this technological project. The technology behind mobile phones has been around for several decades now, with new standards, applications and improvements constantly being built. In addition, the markets and industries that have been built up around mobile phones are quite developed in most cases or are rapidly growing. Public policies have also been articulated both to regulate and to support these industries as they have developed. In fact, the diffusion of similar sets of telecommunication policies across the globe again points to a technological project that champions have made pervasive across countries in both the Global North and South.

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