Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.814894
Title: Fabricating Silicon Savannah
Author: Wahome, Michel Njeri Laura
ISNI:       0000 0004 9355 6613
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2020
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Abstract:
This PhD research thesis offers an historicised account of Silicon Savannah, a digital technology entrepreneurship arena in Nairobi, Kenya. Silicon Savannah is an opportunity to study the appropriation of technology innovation and commercialisation models in a lower income, developing economy. Fieldwork took place over 2015-6, a period when this embryonic ‘arena of development’ (Jorgensen and Sorensen, 1999) is subject to scrutiny about its high, but largely unverified, hyped expectations. As a result, this thesis dwells on how actors develop strategies to adopt and adapt to processes over which they have no discretion. Actors in Silicon Savannah individually and collectively develop strategies and gaming systems for enacting legitimacy and attracting resources. The analytical frame reveals a dimension of persistent colonial modality inherent in the practice of global capitalism of which the digital economy and ICT developmental projects are a part. This is indicated in policy discourses of digital entrepreneurship that disclaim alternatives and multiplicities, and take for granted that there is a standardised typology of progress. The result is a paradox where entrepreneurs are incentivised to demonstrate alignment with discourses that might not reflect their experience. The study aims to produce a ‘view from Nairobi’ by integrating the interpretive frameworks of the subjects of the study with the researcher’s analysis. Thus, it relies on ethnographic interviews and observations, and historical reconstruction using resources preserved in internet-based repositories like weblogs, emails and social media. Through this empirical work, this study makes several contributions to knowledge: First, it produces a rich historical account of Silicon Savannah as a zone of friction between ecologies of knowledge and practice. In this way, it is conversant with ethnographies of policy implementation and academic research interested in interactions between received prescriptions and local milieu. Second, it its discussion of actors’ strategic use of ‘narrative infrastructures’ (Deuten and Rip, 2000) and engages with the use of narrative in the production of and practices in arenas of development. Third, it discusses the perverse incentives and moral hazards that can emerge from doctrinaire discourses, as observed in case studies exemplifying a range of organisations that have social good imperatives and/or emphasise profit-making. Doing so callsinto question this presumed dichotomy. A fourth contribution isto the performativity programme. The thesis analyses how particular enactments act as proxies for capability in an arena characterised by sharp asymmetries. These asymmetries are reflected in the fact that the ability to bestow legitimacy and value is vested in distant geographies responsible for the promulgation of a particular digital entrepreneurship discourse and practice. A fifth contribution is to the coloniality school and the introduction of the methodological approach, ‘Africa as Method’, which provides that this kind of research cannot be accomplished without the integration of geographic and historical positionality. In the case of Kenya, this means paying attention to power topologies, political economy, governance philosophies, the fact of geographical hegemony and practices and relations characterised by the persistence of colonial modality. The thesis concludes with a contemplation of the future – a discussion that emerges from questioning whether a decolonised technoeconomic arena can flourish in a global digital economy that is underpinned by modernist philosophy.
Supervisor: Williams, Robin ; Stewart, James Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.814894  DOI:
Keywords: digital entrepreneurship ; Kenya ; Silicon Savannah ; entrepreneurs’ experiences ; indigenous technoeconomics
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