The Emergence of Self-Organizing E-Commerce Ecosystems in Remote Villages of China: A Tale of Digital Empowerment for Rural Development

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The emergence of Alibaba’s Taobao (e-commerce) Villages in remote China has challenged the assumption that rural, underserved communities must always be the recipients of aid to stimulate ICT-enabled development. Based on an in-depth case study of two remote villages in China, this research note shows how ICT (e-commerce) can empower a marginalized community, giving rise to a rural e-commerce ecosystem that can aid self-development. We propose the concept of digital empowerment to explicate our findings in the exploration of community-driven development: first, we identify the critical actors of a rural e-commerce ecosystem and how they use ICTs; second, we illustrate how the same ICT can be used for different affordances by the actors in the evolution of a rural e-commerce ecosystem. The paper also presents unintended consequences of rural e-commerce development. We conclude with suggestions on how to make ICT useful for rural development and, in doing this, challenge some of the prevailing theoretical arguments about this process.


Additional Details

Author Carmen Mei Ling Leong, Shan-Ling Pan, Sue Newell, and Lili Cui
Year 2016
Volume 40
Issue 2
Keywords ICT-enabled rural development, rural e-commerce ecosystem, digital empowerment, social consequences of ICT, case study
Page Numbers 475-484