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Title: Information Technology Therapy (ITT) as a catalyst for micro enterprise development, and its implications for digital payment adoption : evidence from Lagos, Nigeria
Author: Uzebu, Uwagbae
ISNI:       0000 0004 9359 1996
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2020
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In Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, the country’s over 40 million micro enterprises account for 99% of all enterprises. As a consequence, they employ over 80% of the country’s labour force, drive about 48% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and enable over 7% of its export. Given their strategic importance, the subject of micro enterprise development has become of keen interest to a number of stakeholders, among them Mastercard, a global technology company with a bias for digital payments operating in the country. While several avenues exist for stakeholders like Mastercard to intervene in promoting micro enterprise development in Nigeria, experience garnered by the organization suggest, given its bias for technology, promoting efforts aimed at catalyzing the adoption of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) among micro enterprises in the country, may represent the most feasible approach. This document, details my experience as a novice researcher, studying for my doctorate degree in business administration at the University of Liverpool, while in full time employment at Mastercard. In this dual role as a scholar and practitioner, I sought to provide Mastercard with actionable knowledge on the considerations critical to catalyzing the development of micro enterprises in Nigeria leveraging ICT. I also sort to assist the organization in understanding what these considerations mean, for proliferating digital payment adoption, among the country’s micro enterprises. Given that this constitutes the company’s primary business interest. In addition to creating value for Mastercard and organizations with similar interest, I also sought to employ the insights garnered from the experience in making significant contribution to the existing business and management discourse, on micro enterprise development. In achieving the objectives articulated above, I employed a form of inquiry based on pragmatic research philosophy, known as insider action research. In doing so, I revisited a program designed by Mastercard in 2017, working with Grooming Centre, the largest micro finance institution in Nigeria. Dubbed the Mastercard-Grooming Centre Smart Business Initiative (SBI), the program sought to catalyze the development of 1000 micro enterprises through a series of interventions, among them the deployment of a smart device based, inventory management application called the Retail Smart Business Service (RSBS). Utilizing a theoretical framework forged from reviewing extant literature as guide, the inquiry focused on 100 micro enterprises drawn from the SBI. It entailed, establishing the profile of all 100 micro enterprises, identifying their level of adoption of the RSBS application, identifying the challenges to adoption, developing a series of interventions to address these challenges, and working closely with the Grooming Centre team, and the micro enterprises themselves, to implement the interventions for 25 of them, over a 3 month period. At the end of the intervention, the impact of the actions taken was assessed first with regards to the level of adoption of the RSBS application, and then on the development of the micro enterprises in the intervention group. At the end of the engagement, the learnings garnered and their implications for Mastercard, other stakeholders vested in micro enterprise development in Nigeria, and the academic community at large, was discerned. For Mastercard as well as other stakeholders, the actionable knowledge created is three pronged. The first is that when it comes to catalyzing micro enterprise development leveraging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Nigeria, it is critical to have contextual clarity with regards to 4 important variables that underlie the effort. These variables are; the profile of the micro enterprises in question, the way adoption is defined, how development is measured, and the specific ICT artifact under consideration. The second actionable knowledge that emerged from the engagement for Mastercard is that in addition to having contextual clarity, it is important to approach efforts to catalyze micro enterprise development leveraging ICT in a structured way. This means employing the rigorous process of action research and Information Technology Therapy (ITT) for problem identification and resolution on an ongoing basis. It also means imbibing partnership and trust, as important virtues, and ensuring the coordinator of such efforts have the skill sets of a political entrepreneur. The third and final actionable knowledge created from this thesis project for Mastercard is that, given the fact that digital payment solutions are also ICT artifacts, the considerations established through this effort, also apply. For business and management scholars, the actionable knowledge created asserts that, it is possible to create research on micro enterprise development, that is focused and granular in nature. In addition, the engagement also asserts that from a practitioner’s perspective, there are a number of important variables to consider in investigating micro enterprise development leveraging ICT. These variables include; the context of the investigation, the impact of partnership and trust, the role of political entrepreneurship skills in ensuring success, the impact of having a simple shared narrative across all stakeholders, and the importance of adopting a view of micro enterprise development as a journey as opposed to a destination. Also with respect to scholarship, the engagement unearths a number of considerations for the practice of insider action research. They include, the idea that the practice of action and reflection is not peculiar to insider action research, but is crucial to success of both scholarship and practice, and the fact that knowledge created in action is controlled, with the shared purpose, values and intended outcomes of stakeholders acting as an anchor. The engagement also asserts that conducting insider action research means subscribing to a mindset that acknowledges constant change as a given, an understanding that the stages in the insider action research process do not represent ridged boundaries, and the fact that being an insider action researcher has both advantages and disadvantages, among others. Aside from facilitating the creation of actionable knowledge discussed above, the engagement also aided my development as an individual, a scholar and a practitioner in multiple ways. Among them; creating in me a greater appreciation of my own bias, and how it affects my actions, helping me develop new competencies such as engaging in critical reflection, and horning skills critical to operating as a political entrepreneur; including effective communication, negotiation and problem solving. Keywords: information and communication technology adoption, information technology therapy, micro enterprise, micro enterprise development.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.B.A.) Qualification Level: Doctoral