Economic and Social Upgrading in the Mobile Telecommunications Industry: The Case MTN Uganda
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Worldwide leaving an indelible mark in history by revolutionising lifestyles of individual, Systems, governments and entities. A number of factors have contributed to this phenomenon. Uganda has not been an exception and in some instances, has pioneered the use of mobile phone attributes to change lives. Following deregulation and liberalization in Uganda in the past two decades, the telecommunications industry has been characterised by a dynamic environment, and unprecedented innovations. This has happened at a time the sector is experiencing new technological developments, creating new opportunities. The growth and expansion of the telecommunications has been characterised by heavy involvement of multinational companies with potential labour issues within these Global Production Networks (GPN). These companies conduct their business along established value chains that fit to form the entire industry, such as production of equipment, software development, marketing of the products and services, and distributors among others. This paper poses a number of questions in this regard: 1. What are the rights and entitlements of workers as social actors in as far as employment is concerned along the value chain? 2. Do the workers have access to better work as a result of economic upgrading in the Mobile Phone Network Operators (MNOs)? 3. Are the work conditions that is, protection and rights in line with International Labour Organization (ILO) decent work framework (employment, standards at work and rights to work, social protection and social dialogue)? 4. With technological advancement, a number of services are now offered by MNOs, such as money transfer, Short Messaging Systems (SMS) for health, business and farming purposes. What benefits have these brought to the users and what are the challenges that come with them? The paper adopted both quantitative and qualitative techniques to collect data from representatives and stakeholders at the different nodes of the value chain. The data collection instruments included semi structured interview schedule, key informants interview schedule, documentation and a checklist. Interviews were conducted with regulators; financial Institutions; policy makers; trade union officials; money transfer stakeholders; employees of MTN Uganda, consumers and users; outlets; the franchisees, street vendors; and the Grameen AppLab project officials). This was complimented by a desk review to gather data from a variety of online resources (websites).