Michel Wahome

Cite as:

Okune, Angela. 2018. "Michel Wahome." In STS in "Africa" Personal Careers. In STS in "Africa" in Formation, created by Angela Okune and Aadita Chaudhury. In STS Across Borders Digital Exhibit, curated by Aalok Khandekar and Kim Fortun. Society for Social Studies of Science. August.


Michel Wahome is a Researcher on the Geonet project at Oxford Internet Institute. She is interested in how science and technology shape socio-economics. Her doctoral research at the University of Edinburgh was on the modes of digital entrepreneurship in Nairobi, Kenya. She has also been involved in research projects on social media and security in Kenya and the co-construction of computer science in academic institutions in East Africa. Michel’s professional background includes innovation and science policy advisory related to ‘smart cities’ at the New York Academy of Sciences. She is also a graduate of the University of Waterloo in Canada and Bard College in the United States of America.

This PECE essay helps to answer the STS Across Borders analytic question: “What people, projects, and products exemplify how this STS formation has developed over time?”

This essay highlights prominant and upcoming individuals working on critical science and technology issues in Africa and is part of a broader exhibit on "STS in Africa."

STS Across Borders In Brief

STS Across Borders is a special exhibit organized by the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) to showcase how the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) has developed in different times, places...Read more

Michel Wahome joins GeoNet (Oxford Internet Institute)

AO: This blog post authored by Mark Graham describes digital entrepreneurship imaginaries and introduces Michel Wahome and her work at GeoNet.Read more

Emerging insights:

Michel Wahome (April 11, 2018): "Having studied Nairobi, I think I had an expectation that digital entrepreneurs are a progressive group of people who are generally politically active everywhere. Even if they weren't active, I assumed that if they were, then they would be progressive or liberal in their activities. This was evident in Nairobi and also Cameroon. But that was not very obvious in other African cities where they just saw themselves as regular business people. It has everything to do with the milieu that people find themselves in. When there’s trouble, modes of communication become inherently political and digital entrepreneurship is built on the infrastructures of connectivity."

Wahome, Michel, and Ellis Rubinstein. 2011. “Malaysia Collaborates with the New York Academy of Sciences to Develop an Innovation-Based Economy.” The Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences : MJMS 18 (3): 1–3.

Abstract: "If Malaysia is to become a high-income country by 2020, it will have to transform into a knowledge-based, innovation economy. This goal will be achieved by developing an atmosphere conducive to experimentation and entrepreneurship at home; while reaching out to partners across the...Read more

Michel Wahome on Future Directions of STS in Africa

Michel Wahome (August 20, 2018): "Continued work in the development of decolonial epistemology so that Africa can speak about and for itself." Read more

"How did you arrive at your project topic?"

Michel Wahome (April 11, 2018): "I was working in a Science and Tech advisory and I felt like our advice was one-size-fits all. There is a framework that everyone uses from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and it didn’t seem to me that it should apply the same everywhere. Therefore, I was interested in the adoption of technologies and why some were more easily adopted in certain places over than others. For example, why has it been more difficult for renewables to be taken up than mobile phones? While I was thinking around those issues, Nairobi was simultaneously developing a reputation for mobile phone use (M-PESA, etc.), so I thought it would be interesting to study what was happening in Nairobi to contrast with adoptions of other technologies in other arenas. I had a number of friends who were dabbling in digital entrepreneurship as a result of this narrative that it was possible, and people were being successful.

Therefore, when I started the PhD, my project focus was about technology adoption but slowly I became more interested in the people developing the technologies and trying to commercialize them and put them on the market. I ended up focusing on entrepreneurship and the question of success and necessity vs opportunity. When I got to Nairobi, there was a whole discussion about “hype” and that led me to think about expectations. Eventually I became interested in identities and narratives and performances that people had to undertake to develop legitimacy within the digital entrepreneurship arena and how that translated into their success going forward and what they considered success. So, in summary, my project became a sociology of expectations and success in this particular place [Nairobi]."

"How do you see your work fitting into existing STS discussions?"

Michel Wahome (April 11, 2018): "The critical element. I have become particularly interested in postcolonial STS which is sort of critical of STS for not having been postcolonial in the first place. Some of the work that I’ve drawn inspiration from include Latour, Callon, Law, “Asia as method” (a discursive strategy in Asian studies popularized by Kuan-Hsing Chen), Simon Gikandi, Mbembe, the Comaroffs, Stenegers."