The Myth of Market Price Information: Mobile Phones and the Application of Economic Knowledge in ICTD
Jenna Burrell and Elisa Oreglia. (2015) The myth of market price information: mobile phones and the application of economic knowledge in ICTD. Economy And Society. 44(2): pp. 271-292
The notion that farmers use mobile phones to acquire market price information has become a kind of shorthand for the potential of this technology to empower rural, low-income populations in the Global South. We argue that the envisioned consequences of ‘market price information’ for market efficiency with benefits at all income levels is a kind of myth, one frequently promulgated in the publications of aid agencies like the World Bank, in the project reports of NGOs and by mass media outlets such as The Economist, but is also the subject of serious discussion among scholars. We show that ‘market price information’ has become a kind of boundary object recast across the expert cultures of economics, computer science, policy work and development expertise. We draw from our ethnographic work (among rural agriculturalists in China and Uganda) to offer four alternatives to this myth.