Innovation and technology entrepreneurship cultures between Ghana, Southern China, and Silicon Valley

This research will investigate contemporary social and technological processes that bring together and motivate specific kinds of leaders shaping transnational networks of design and innovation in computing and communication technologies. Ethnographic research of tech entrepreneurship cultures in Accra (Ghana), Shenzhen (China), and Silicon Valley (USA) will document the complex reality of global technology production. By focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship cultures, this project fosters a nuanced understanding of how models of technology production are changing in a world that is growing more connected globally. It also shows how both resource-rich and resource-constrained environments are innovating transnationally, and identifies what can be learned from them. 

Start date: 1/1/2017
End date: 12/31/2019


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UMSI Assistant Professor Silvia Lindtner, who researches maker and DIY cultures, has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant, “Innovation and technology entrepreneurship cultures between Ghana, Southern China, and Silicon Valley.” Her co-PI on the project is UMSI research fellow Seyram Avle.

Through this nearly $500,000 award, Lindtner, Avle and their team will study the global shifting of technology in regards to entrepreneurial pursuits and the low cost of manufacturing, specifically in Accra, Ghana; Shenzhen, China; and Silicon Valley in California.

For example, the “Chinese phone” was once thought of as a low-quality copycat device. It's now considered good technology and reasonably priced. Many factors are driving these technological developments. That means shifting hardware and software landscapes have repercussions for the next generation of IT devices. 

The research focuses on two separate groups of people whose work is overlapping more and more as hardware prototyping becomes less expensive and software development becomes more common: the transnational software/hardware tech entrepreneurs and the hardware sellers and manufacturing entrepreneurs who distribute and repair the electronic devices. As is the protocol with ethnographic research, both groups will be studied in the locations where they work, from tech hubs and start-up ventures to street-side stalls and repair shops. 

Lindtner’s research seeks answers to multilayered questions, such as  

  • How can we understand the ways that entrepreneurship shapes technology production at both transnational and local levels? 
  • What are the daily practices in the design and implementation of new technologies in-between these regions?
  • What are the social, cultural and economic processes that shape them? 

The overarching goal of the work is to understand the concepts in tech entrepreneurship and innovation (like start-up culture and design thinking) that contribute to local strategies and transnational relations of technology production.


Innovation and technology entrepreneurship cultures between Ghana, Southern China, and Silicon Valley, National Science Foundation: $499,441

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…"