This also sounds curiously similar to early stages of import-replacing industrialization, where with domestic reverse-engineering of imported technologies in support of increasing support, repair, and eventually production and innovation of the technology. Oh wait, we're already seeing innovation:
"In any cluster of mobile phone shops you find someone who offers repair services. This typically starts out as people fixing displays and speakers, which tend to break first. People then come asking if other things can be fixed, and over time there’s an increased awareness of how to fix different models. Nokia tends to be the dominant player in those markets, so people tend to know how to fix them, right down to soldering bits of the circuit board. It’s from those repair services that a street-hacker culture originates. "
The exciting part is that this is hardware work, moving beyond innovation in services like using prepaid cell credit as transnational currency. While that's nothing new to the knockoff markets in China, seeing this spread internationally - and through an increasingly networked group of hackers - is exciting.
"However the demand is there, and we’ve seen street services that offer to take two physical sim cards, and re-engineer the circuitry to fit into one sim card slot – effectively allowing multiple phone numbers on one device. You could argue that the cutting edge of mobile technology and use is happening on the streets of places like Accra, rather than Tokyo or San Francisco. "