Mobile Ecosystems among Low-skilled Migrants in Singapore: An Investigation into Mobile Usage Practices

Rajiv G Aricat


The paper explores how the ideas of freedom and constraints are inherent to the phenomenon of adaptation. In order to explicate this tension in the migrant adaptation process, the study adopts the development approach that has highlighted freedom as means and ends of development – the capability approach. The study explores answers to the questions (i) To what extent does migrants’ adaptation to the host country, including to its mobile ecosystem, ensure their freedom and to what extent the adaptation is a constraint for them?; and, (ii) How do various strategies of adaptation help migrants achieve development in social, economic and political domains? In-depth interviews were conducted among 50 low-skilled migrants from Bangladesh and India in Singapore. Findings showed that mobile phone usage helped enhance the functionings of migrant workers, although there were constraints in achieving improvements in their capabilities. Hierarchical organizational structures acted as external constraints, whereas overdependence on mobile phones and forsaking of ideals of collective action acted as internal impediments. The study calls for a renewed understanding of adaptation in transnational migration context, with more focus on revealing the tensions between the adapting entity and the factors curtailing the freedom of the adapting entity.


Adaptation, migrants, mobile phone, ICT ecosystem, development, ICTD

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The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries.
ISSN: 1681-4835