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Why haven’t digital platforms transformed firms in developing countries? The Rwandan tourism sector explored

There has been a lot of hope and publicity about the economic potential of increased Internet connectivity in the East African region; including the hope of disintermediation and better connection to global markets. Chris Foster discusses the findings of an OII project on Development and Broadband Internet Access in East Africa. Through surveys, interviews and in-depth observations, the project examines the expectations and stated potentials of broadband Internet in East Africa, comparing those expectations to the on-the-ground effects of broadband connectivity.

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Gender gaps in virtual economies: are there virtual ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ collar occupations?

Determinants of economic wellbeing have long been investigated from many angles in the social sciences: a key finding that is consistent across economies and time periods is that women tend to earn less income and hold less wealth than men. But what about in online (virtual) economies? OII Research Fellow Vili Lehdonvirta discusses how by looking at player gender and character gender separately, we can distinguish between “being” female and “appearing to be” female, and see how they are related to economic outcomes. His article (with R.A.Ratan, T.L.Kennedy, and D.Williams) Pink and Blue Pixel$: Gender and Economic Disparity in Two Massive Online Games, is published in The Information Society 30 (4) 243-255.

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Investigating virtual production networks in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia

What effects will the emergence of new and transformative ‘virtual’ economic activities and work (such as ‘microwork’ and ‘game labour’) have on social and economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia? Mark Graham, PI of a project on Microwork and Virtual Production Networks in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia discusses the question of how to discover who is benefitting, what difference remaining barriers and positionalities in SSA and SEA make, and ultimately what difference changing connectivities make in the world’s economic peripheries. [Read more OII work on virtual labour]

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Economics for Orcs: how can virtual world economies inform national economies and those who design them?

What can ‘real’ economies and the economists who run them learn from these virtual economies? How can a focus on social fabric — rather than just on efficiency and output –usefully inform national economies? OII Research Fellow Vili Lehdonvirta discusses his new book from MIT Press (with E.Castronova): Virtual Economies: Design and Analysis. It aims to bring virtual economies to the attention of social scientists, and secondly to help digital designers use social science and economics scholarship when designing their virtual economies.

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Past and Emerging Themes in Policy and Internet Studies

What kind of research does the journal Policy & Internet publish? Editor Vili Lehdonvirta approaches the question from two angles; first, by examining the question empirically, through a brief thematic analysis of the articles published since its launch in 2009; second, by considering what kind of research the journal is likely to publish in the future, both in terms of what kind of trends can be seen emerging in policy and Internet research, as well as in terms of what challenges outlined in the journal’s original vision that continue to be pertinent today. Read the full editorial.

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The social economies of networked cultural production (or, how to make a movie with complete strangers)

There’s been a lot of talk about the disruptive and transformative powers of networked technologies, with Wikipedia and open source software commonly highlighted as examples of new production models. However, the economies (whether monetary, social or political) of networked cultural production are under-theorised, and the motivations (including understandings of social capital) of participants producing crowdsourced cultural goods are still little understood. OII Researcher Isis Hjorth discusses her recently completed doctoral research on crowdsourced film-making in the wreckamovie community.

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The economic expectations and potentials of broadband Internet in East Africa

There has been a lot of hope and publicity about the economic potential of increased Internet connectivity in the East African region; including the hope of disintermediation and better connection to global markets. Chris Foster discusses initial findings of an OII project on Development and Broadband Internet Access in East Africa. Through surveys, interviews and in-depth observations, the project examines the expectations and stated potentials of broadband Internet in East Africa, comparing those expectations to the on-the-ground effects of broadband connectivity.

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Staying free in a world of persuasive technologies

Technologies are increasingly being designed to change the way we think and behave. While there has been excitement recently about designing information environments to ‘nudge’ us into beneficial behaviours, are we giving enough attention to their implications for individual freedom and autonomy? When does a ‘nudge’ become a ‘push’? OII DPhil student James Williams is developing a set of ethical principles for the design of persuasive technologies.

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Seeing like a machine: big data and the challenges of measuring Africa’s informal economies

The mobile phone has created new channels of information about African informal economies and workers. In an era where so much of the apparatus for measuring Africa’s economies has been weakened, this kind of data reaps enormous potential for governments and private companies. Dr Laura Mann (OII) discusses the implications of big (and open) data on the research environment — as Africa becomes ‘more usable’ and ‘more legible’, she asks: for whom, by whom, and for what purpose is this data being used?

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