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Insights to mobile technology use


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Insights to mobile technology use

  1. 1. id21 insights 69 l September 2007 i d21 insights research findings for development policymakers and practitionersMobile phones Contentsand development Editorial 1 Micro-entrepreneurs in Nigeria 2 Mobile Ladies in Bangladesh 3The future in new hands? Unequal gender relations in Zambia 3‘Explosive’ is the only way to describe mobile phone growth. Beyond the three billion mark 4Half the world’s 6.5 billion people now use a mobile (up from Mobile banking 5two billion just two years ago). There are more than twice as Poor households in Jamaica 6many mobile owners in developing countries as in industrialisedcountries. Subscriber growth rates in developing countries are the best known examples is the creation of25 percent per year – and double that in Africa. new livelihoods for women running each Grameen Village PayPhone in Bangladesh.More and more development workers coastal markets, to improved relief Many others worldwide are also making atell stories of mobile surprises – not just planning in the wake of recent Peruvian new living through activities like re-sellingwho is using them, and where they earthquakes. airtime and prepay cards, or even sellingare using them, but also how they are In this issue of id21 insights, Ananya ringtones and phone covers.using them. Through mobiles, the first Raihan describes use of mobile phones As with all technologies, where there aredigital information and communication to deliver information to Bangladeshi benefits, there are also inequalities. As wetechnologies (ICTs) have reached poor villagers, often to those from particularly- talk of the ‘digital divide’, so we can talk ofhouseholds and communities. In less than a excluded groups or locations. This has a ‘mobile divide’ between people who havegeneration, the majority of poor people will helped them solve a variety of problems mobile phones and those who do not. Therehave access to mobile phones and services. – mainly related to health and agriculture may also be inequalities amongst people What difference will this make? Mobile – that would otherwise have been costly who have phones, because of the socialownership brings two types of benefits. or difficult to address. context into which all new technologies are Incremental benefits improve what Transformational benefits offer introduced, and by which they are shaped.people already do – offering them faster something new – new ways to access Daniel Miller reports on the variousand cheaper communication, often services and support livelihoods. Evidence impacts of mobile phone use on differentsubstituting for costly and risky journeys. on this is only just emerging because it groups in Jamaica. Those already employed,Evidence is diverse – from fishermen in relies on a mobile’s ability to be ‘more in some cases, use mobiles to make moneyKerala, India, earning more money and than just a phone’. Jonathan Donner by selling more of their goods and services.wasting less fish by phoning different summarises one area of promise: ‘m- By contrast, those who are unemployed use banking’, which is their phones to try to get money by ‘link-up’ allowing wider access with broad social networks. to banking and other Abi Jagun shows that mobile ownership financial services. has benefited producers in Nigeria’s informal In addition, there are textile sector, increasing their trade at the production benefits that expense of those who lack access to mobile come not from using but telephony. But she also describes how those from selling mobiles and in powerful positions in the supply chain related services. One of are strengthening their position through mobiles. Likewise, Kutoma Wakunuma Making a call at a phone traces the interplay of mobiles with booth run by Douglas Oduori husband-wife relations, describing how in Funyula, Kenya. He phones have become a new means for operates a handset which is modified to function as expression of an old story: the oppression of a Global System for Mobile women by men. communications (GSM) wireless And, as with all technologies, there is phone. The area recently hype and then there is the reality. The received mobile phone coverage, so telecommunications growth and potential impact of mobiles companies, including Celtel and are phenomenal. Mobiles can be seen in Safaricom, are fighting for a action, for example, helping deliver on every share of the market © Sven Torfinn/Panos Pictures, one of the Millennium Development Goals 2005 – including poverty, education, equality and t
  2. 2. health. But technology has limits. Some limits policies and private business will work for services that cross existing boundariest are imposed by the social context. Others are the majority of mobile service delivery. But and present governments with new imposed by the ‘physicality of development’: they must be combined with government decisions. How, for instance, should we cannot reduce all of development into the intervention and regulation to ensure the they handle the overlap between bits and bytes that mobiles handle. Actual poorest people are not excluded. telecommunications and financial money must still be transacted; face-to-face Development actors must also plan for regulation now that mobile phones allow meetings must still occur; and real goods the future. To date, mobiles in developing airtime to be used as currency? and infrastructure must still be produced countries have been understood mainly as a The implications of all these cannot be and used. What we expect of mobiles must means to provide connectivity: the promise understood simply by generalising from past therefore have limits. of fixed-line telephony finally delivered to a research on other ICTs. Governments and In mobile policy and practice, as well mass market because mobiles have better others need to build specific knowledge as limiting expectations, we should also fit (to needs, income and culture), better about these new capabilities. recognise the lessons from existing work – functions, and different corporate strategies We have heard about the ‘information on telephony, on ICTs, on communications, and government policies. revolution’ and the ‘digital revolution’ in and on development more generally. At Mobile phones are more than just a development. Tempting though it may be, the project level, this means adopting fixed-line alternative, however. Policies and we should avoid talk of a ‘mobile revolution’. good practices such as involving users and strategies must now recognise that they are Yet this is also more than just a ‘mobile matching designs to local realities. also: evolution’ – for the next decade or more, we At the policy level, lessons are urgently l Mobile – this ‘communications on the will continue to be surprised by the ways in needed because many development actors move’ means people can engage in which these new technologies interact with are ‘playing catch-up’: development activities that previously development processes. l Governments – too focused on would not have been possible. For fixed-line telephony – are only just example, although mobile phones Richard Heeks and Abi Jagun Development Informatics Group, Institute for Development appreciating the reality of mobiles’ enable state surveillance, to what Policy and Management, School of Environment and domination of the field. extent can they also allow citizens to Development, University of Manchester, Manchester, l Most donors and international agencies monitor the state (see box on page 4)? M13 9PL, UK – obsessed about rural telecentres l Multi-functional – what are the often based on unsustainable European opportunities, now that many of the models – were caught unawares by the world’s poor communities have access See also Mobiles and Development: Infrastructure, Poverty, popularity of mobiles. not just to a phone but to a camera, Enterprise and Social Development, UK Development l Only private firms have been paying calculator, audio player, video player, Studies Association ‘Information, Technology and attention, getting on with the business timepiece and – soon enough – a Development’ Study Group, workshop summary and papers, 2007 of addressing demands and needs. platform for email and Web use, all Tim Kelly discusses some of the policy built into one device? conferences/mobile.htm lessons that should be learned. Liberal l Cross-functional – they bring together Micro-enterprise on middlemen, travel and meetings. Trade appears that mobiles are increasing the has been slow, costly and even risky, given difference between those who can afford the physical dangers of travel in Nigeria. access to a mobile (who find greater and the The study found mobile phones benefit everyone in the aso oke industry. opportunities to trade) and those who cannot (who find they have fewer orders). Also, ‘mobile divide’ They provide the first reliable access to telecommunications. They also: micro-entrepreneurs with established business networks benefit more because access to a New benefits and old inequalities l increase awareness of opportunities for phone rarely leads to new business contacts. in Nigeria’s informal sector trade It is important to recognise that: l shorten the time taken to fulfil orders l Physical communications – supported l substitute for travel or complement it by by transport and roads – still matter to Mobile phones are starting to penetrate improving coordination of visits micro-entrepreneurs, even in an era of the informal sector in developing l reduce communication costs in terms mobile digital communication. countries. Do they bring benefits? of time spent travelling, transportation l Mobile applications in developing Reinforce inequalities? Both? costs, and the opportunity cost of countries will not be used in the same income foregone when travelling ways as in developed countries. We Information is vital to trade. Yet trade in the l reduce travel-related risks need specific research to determine the informal sector is shaped by information l improve monitoring of the production real processes and impacts of mobiles in challenges. Information may be absent – for process to reduce errors, improve development. instance customers do not know who to product quality, and increase customer l The ‘mobile divide’ will increase the buy from. Information may be uncertain satisfaction. disparities in society unless new initiatives – suppliers can be unsure about what However, the need to inspect items being and innovations, including increasing prices they can charge. Information may produced, the complexity of product the affordability of mobile phones, be asymmetrical – some participants know design and the lack of trust between help reach those who are currently more than others. Micro-entrepreneurs can, participants, means a continuing need for disconnected. therefore, spend a lot of time travelling in physical meetings. Mobiles therefore cannot order to gather information. They also rely substitute for all travel. Abi Jagun Development Informatics Group, Institute for Development on middlemen – the link between them and In addition, mobiles help reinforce existing Policy and Management, School of Environment and their customers – who hold vital information. structures and inequalities. Information and Development, University of Manchester, Manchester, Mobile phones are starting to be used in communication technologies (ICTs) promise M13 9PL, UK this context. Can they make a difference? to remove self-serving middlemen from A study of mobiles in the aso oke (hand- trade. In the aso oke industry, however, See also woven textile) sector in south-western middlemen are driving the adoption of Mobile Telephony and Developing Country Micro- Enterprise, Development Informatics Working Papers, Nigeria addresses this question. This is an mobiles, using them to consolidate their IDPM, University of Manchester, by Abi Jagun, Richard informal industry that suffers from typical power and influence. Heeks & Jason Whalley, 2007 information challenges. Customers and ICTs also promise to make the situation publications/wp/di/index.htm#wp producers have traditionally relied heavily more equal for everyone involved. Yet it2 id21 insights 69 September 2007
  3. 3.‘Mobile Ladies’ Nearly half the queries are health-related (skin diseases or advice on medicines, forin Bangladesh example). Over one third are agriculture- related (animal diseases or how to increaseConnecting villagers to crop yields). Others are to do with educationlivelihoods information (information on admission procedures for instance), human rights (including providing women with information aboutVillagers often lack information they legal processes in cases of dowry, rape andneed to help improve their livelihoods. physical assault), or non-farm activities (likeSuch information exists but is often weather reports for fishermen).denied to them by the lack of connection The facility makes a crucial mainstream information systems. Research shows:Mobile phones can solve this problem. l 95 percent of queries are answered and over 80 percent of users are satisfiedIn 2004, the Development Research with the information they get.Network (D.Net) in Bangladesh set up l Villagers cannot afford their ownthe Rural Information Helpline. Specialist phones and 70 percent of usershelpdesk operators in the capital, Dhaka, report having no local source for thehave Internet access and a database of information they seek. The poorestresponses to common livelihoods-related village covered was the greatest user ofqueries. They also have links to a variety of the Helpline.relevant institutions around Bangladesh. l The main benefit is financial saving, The ‘Mobile Lady’ in Bangladesh connects people Initially, however, many villagers were with many examples of travel or use of of different ages and occupations with a group ofdisconnected from the Helpline: although potentially costly middlemen avoided. experts who can advise on a range of livelihoods. She stands as a symbol of empowerment, andmobile phone networks cover more than l Women are key beneficiaries. Many participating in this programme has improved her80 percent of the country’s territory, in rural women villagers will not go outside own social status.areas millions still cannot contact people the home to seek information; 36 © D.Netbeyond their local villages. percent of the mobile service users are In response the ‘Mobile Ladies’ initiative housewives. l draw on local community members towas introduced. These women – with l Mobile Ladies is a profession for women act as the infomediariesmobile phone in hand – go door-to-door in even the most remote villages and l act as part of a multi-channel (phone,in their villages, listening to problems and the project could ultimately lead to email, letter) strategy for informationadvising on how best they can be solved. employment of about 89,000 women. delivery In about half the cases this involves Challenges remain, including cost, l be truly user-driven, responding tosending a letter or email via a community- sustainability, turning information into communities’ needs.based information worker. For the rest, a action, and assisting the poorest phone call is made directly to the However, the project has shown mobiles can Ananya Raihan Development Research Network (D.Net), 6/8 HumayunHelpline and an answer is provided instantly help connect the disconnected and address Road, Block- B Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207, Bangladeshor in a few days. A ‘no exclusion’ policy – important social and economic needs. T +880 2 8156772 F +880 2 8142021meaning that everyone can receive services Key lessons include the ability of a mobile- ananya@raihan.netirrespective of literacy, physical handicap based service to: See alsoor social status – has proved effective in l support an ‘infomediary’ model, Livelihood Case Studies, D.Net, Dhaka, 2007creating confidence among the villagers. involving a person (intermediary) who is Pallitathya Help Line, D.Net, Dhaka, 2005 (PDF) The Helpline was accessed by more able to add value to the communication 4,000 users over a 15 month period. of information Mobiles reinforce and verbal abuse, particularly by men towards their wives: airtime are still expensive, and women may be less able than men to afford their unequal gender l Some husbands accuse their wives of infidelity, use. However, insufficient official statistics thinking they use their mobile phones to on a range of gender concerns relating relations in Zambia communicate with lovers. They inspect call to technology mean that these new records on the mobile phones for proof, and developments are difficult to analyse. Mobile phones affect more than just some order their wives to sell their phones. For women, the social and economic communications. They can also reinforce l In a widely publicised case in the Zambian advantages of accessing and using a mobile society’s unequal power relations. A media, a man reportedly beat his wife because phone far outweigh the disadvantages. But three-year study in Zambia looks at this, he suspected her of having an extra-marital those promoting and making policies for partly in terms of relationships between affair after she refused to let him check her mobile phones must understand that these husbands and wives. calls and text messages. new technologies create problems as well as The study found that mobile phone access l Men often demand that their wives make and solutions. These problems must be recognised and use has positive impacts for women. They answer calls in their presence, although they if they are to be addressed. Among other benefit from faster, cheaper communication refuse to do the same. things, this will require much greater gender and a strengthening of family, friend and l There are popular songs referring to the social awareness in policies and projects. business-related social networks. However, difficulties that mobile phones have introduced mobile phones also provide a new focal between men and women. They are light- Kutoma J. Wakunuma point for social conflict between spouses hearted but carry an important message about Sheffield Hallam University, Sheaf Building 4114, Howard Street, S1 1WB, Sheffield, UK and can reinforce traditional gender power the way this new technology is adversely differences. This happens as some husbands affecting gender relations. determine how wives use their phones, and These findings suggest that new technologies See also even whether or not they are allowed to have become another aspect of oppression The Internet and Mobile Telephony: Implications for Women’s Development and Empowerment in continue owning a mobile. of women by men, and a source of inequality Zambia, Gender, ICTs and Development workshop Interviewees consistently reported problems between them. These inequalities are not paper, 2006 (PPT) of insecurity, insensitivity, mistrust and just social: mobile phones can also reinforce jealousy, which sometimes resulted in physical economic gender differentials. Handsets and htmid21 insights 69 3 September 2007
  4. 4. www.id21.orgBeyond the Figure 1: Methodology for assessing gaps in the provision of phone servicesthree billion mark Highest cost per Universal service frontier subscriberIn mid-2007, we passed the symbolic Market efficiency frontiermark of three billion mobile phones inuse around the world. How did we get Access gaphere? And how will we reach the nextthree billion users? SUPPLY Market gapThe spread of mobile phones across thedeveloping world is remarkable. In 1990, Existing accessthere were only 14,200 mobile phones inAfrica out of a global total of 11 million. By Lowest2005, this number had risen to 137 million cost perout of a total 2.2 billion. Since then, around subscriberone billion more mobile phones have been Highest Lowestadded, the majority in developing countries; willingness willingnessgrowth in Africa – more than 50 percent to pay DEMAND to payper year – is the highest in the world. Source: Winrock International/Pyramid Research ‘Costing ICT Infrastructure Needs for Africa’ ( Forthcoming, October 2007). Mobile phones are not justcomplementing, or substituting, fixed-line services. They often provide access l Existing Access is the portion of a Winrock International and Pyramid Research,to electronic communications for the first country’s population already served by covering 24 countries in sub-Saharan Africa,time. In the Democratic Republic of the either fixed-line or mobile phones. found that 57 percent of people wereCongo, some 1.7 million new mobile l The Market Gap is a measure of how already within range of a mobile signal. Byphones were added in 2005, reaching many more people than currently have improving the efficiency of existing markets,a total of 2.7 million. By contrast, the service could be reached if markets a further 40 percent of the populationinstalled base of just 10,000 fixed lines were functioning efficiently. could be served, with some US$3.0 billiondeclined. l The Access Gap measures those parts of market-led investment (Market Gap) by In a fraction of the history of fixed lines, of the population that could only be 2015. Only the remaining 3 percent wouldmobile phones have come to dominate. reached with some kind of subsidy require government intervention, throughHow did this happen? Technical innovations – capital expenditure, operational a subsidy of around US$2.1 billion (Accesshelped: prepaid cards with low-value expenditure, or both. Gap), as they live in areas outside therecharges reduced economic barriers and Research carried out for the World Bank by range of commercially-viable mobile servicemodern handset design increased the provision.prestige of ownership. But the right Moving beyond the three billion mark ispolicies also had to be in place – a From surveillance to a major challenge. It will require low-costmix of less government (liberalisation handsets and services, innovative fundingand competition) and more ‘sousveillance’ in elections schemes and, most of all, more efficientgovernment (regulation and licensing markets. Research evidence suggests, New technologies are often associated with however, that it will be possible to almostrequirements). state surveillance of citizens. Mobile phones A key indicator of government double current levels of penetration before are no exception. Examples of surveillance andpolicy has been the number of censorship include tapping phones and tracking services become uneconomic to provide.operators allowed into the market. journalists in China, and suspending all short The development impact of that change,Ethiopia, for instance, has maintained message services (SMS) during elections in which could be achieved within a singlea monopoly: mobile penetration Cambodia. generation, is hard to predict. But it doesremained less than 1 per 100 But mobile phones can also reverse the process to suggest a much faster rate of narrowinginhabitants in 2006. In neighbouring enable ‘sousveillance’ – bottom-up monitoring of the some development gaps than at anySomalia, which has a similarly state by citizens. previous time in human history.troubled past but largely unregulated In 2007, 500 NGO election monitors were sent out with mobile phones to polling stations in Sierra Leone. Tim Kellymarket entry, penetration is already Their job was to send reports via SMS/text messages. Standardization Policy Division, Internationalabove 6 per 100 inhabitants. Benefits included rapid awareness of irregularities and Telecommunication Union, Place des Nations, CH-1211 Other helpful policies include unofficial voting tallies that could be compared with Geneva 20, Switzerlandallowing foreign investment and official results.ownership, and requiring the main Less organised ‘souveillance’ also occurs. In the 2004 See alsofixed-line operator to allow mobile Ghanaian presidential elections, individual voters called Costing ICT Infrastructure Investment Needs for Africa,operators to interconnect, and radio phone-in shows by mobile to report intimidation study for World Bank, by Winrock International and or obstruction. This prompted a police response Pyramid Research, (forthcoming, October 2007)make calls across their networks, atreasonable rates. in a way that a direct call to the police might not have done – a reminder of the power of combining In simple terms, however, mobiles mobiles with other information and communicationwork because they are driven by technologies. Similarly, combining mobile phonedemand rather than supply, andby needs rather than technology. cameras with websites has proven effective in reporting electoral misdeeds in a number of countries. What do you think?Everybody, it seems, wants a mobilephone. But how will ‘everybody’ get See also Please write and tell us your viewsone? Mobile Phones and Social Activism,, by Ethan about the issues raised in id21 Zuckerman, 2007 We can assess this through analysis insights. And what topics would you like to read about?of the gaps between existing and activism-ethan-zuckerman-white-paperpotential use of mobile phones in Texting It In: Monitoring Elections With Mobile Phones, Email with your, by Katrin Verclas, 2007developing countries (see Figure 1 ideas.above):id21 insights 69 September 2007 4
  5. 5. M-banking bills. It can guard against theft, replace costly bank cheques and increase the Extending financial services to speed and reliability of transactions. poor people In addition, people use m-banking services to send remittances home, quickly and inexpensively. For many people across the developing Some of the more successful m- world, storing or sending small sums banking initiatives in developing of money is economically impractical. countries are in South Africa (WIZZIT), This is due to the high cost and the Philippines (Globe), and Kenya inaccessibility of banks and formal (M-PESA). Each has a different set financial services. Recently, however, of actors and services. For example, telecommunications providers, banks, some countries’ laws require stored and other companies have begun value accounts to be managed by a offering a variety of financial services registered bank, which requires a bank via a basic mobile phone handset. partner. In other cases, no bank is involved. Many are optimistic that these mobile The systems are not yet found in banking or ‘m-banking’ systems will lower all countries but their take-up where the cost of financial services to millions of they are available has been impressive. poor mobile phone users. Some ongoing issues will impact how M-banking systems offer three general the services evolve: capabilities. Users can: l Providers generally must l convert cash in and out of ‘stored offer physical presence. The value’ accounts linked to their mobile systems require points of access phone throughout the country with A mobile phone seller at the Souk el Goma’a, l use this stored value to pay for goods cash-in and cash-out facilities, and Cairo’s Friday market. Growth trends of mobile phones in developing countries have exceeded and services merchants need to be motivated to all expectations. Experts had estimated that there l transfer stored value between their accept m-payments. would be 67 million mobile phones in Africa by account and other people’s accounts. l The regulatory environment is 2005; the actual figure was 137 million – more than double the estimate. Unlike simple airtime transfer features, complex and varies from country © Mark Henley/Panos Pictures, 2004 m-banking systems support transfers of to country. For example, important actual currencies. This means a person can money-laundering and anti-terrorism walk into an m-banking location, ‘cash in’ laws constrain what services can be prevent some people from using as if he or she were buying airtime for a offered. m-banking systems. pre-paid mobile account, and then transfer l Most systems currently offer only l Shared handsets complicate issues of that money anytime – often via text stored value; credit features are rare. security and account ownership. message – to merchants, utility providers, However, microcredit institutions may The elegance of transactions via handsets or other individuals. be able to use m-banking systems to and text messages hides the services’ M-banking reduces the need to carry improve their operations. complex organisational and technical cash, or to travel or wait in line to pay l Literacy and language barriers may capabilities. However, it is this simplicity and affordability that is likely to make m-banking a valuable service for poor people. Mobile networks at the centre of infrastructure There are many more mobile phone users than bank account holders in the world. If Reflecting Northern models, mobile infrastructure, allowing the creation of m-banking can continue to bring financial telecommunications in developing national and regional networks? services to people who currently do not countries were initially conceived as l Technology: can new low-cost Internet use them (the ’unbanked’), it will be more secondary to fixed lines. Now, however, devices achieve the type of mass market than a convenience – it will be an important mobiles are central to information mobiles phones currently enjoy? Only then new way for poor people to control their and communication technology (ICT) can the promise of mobile Internet be finances and their livelihoods. infrastructure and policy: realised. l Globally, Asia is the largest regional mobile l Affordability: access to mobile networks Jonathan Donner telecommunications market, not only in and services is still far from universal, and Technology for Emerging Markets Group, Microsoft terms of consumption, but increasingly in advances are needed to reach the poorest Research India, 196/36 2nd Main, Sadashivnagar, Bangalore, India 560-080 terms of production. people. Can innovations such as micro- l Mobile operators now control 70 percent prepay (allowing purchase of very small of the telecommunication network capacity amounts of airtime), combined with low-cost See also in sub-Saharan Africa, leaving fixed-line pricing strategies and public policy initiatives Micro-payment Systems and their Application to Mobile monopolies far behind. like universal service funding schemes be Networks, infoDEV: Washington, DC, 2006 (PDF) l Mobile operators’ plans for introduced to make this happen? m_Commerce_January.2006.pdf telecommunications coverage now determine Mobile Phone Banking and Low-Income Customers: how and when poor and rural populations See also Evidence from South Africa, CGAP/UNF: Washington, are reached by the ‘digital revolution’. Internet for Everyone in African GSM Networks, DC, by Gautam Ivatury and Mark Pickens, 2006 (PDF) Scanbi-Invest, Stockholm, by Olof Hesselmark and l Using General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) Anders Engvall, 2005 (PDF) pdf technology, mobile networks are now a The Enabling Environment for Mobile Banking in Africa, potentially viable way to deliver Internet Telecoms Demand : Measures for Improving DFID: London, by David Porteous, 2006 (PDF) services, and avoid costly and protracted Affordability in Developing Countries, Media@LSE, fixed-line models. London, by Claire Milne, 2006 (PDF) The Transformational Potential of M-Transactions, Policy ability%20report%2031.01.06.PDF Paper Series Number 6, July 2007, Vodafone, With mobile operators now taking the lead in Options for terrestrial connectivity in sub-Saharan Nokia, and Nokia Siemens Networks: London, 2007 (PDF) ICT policy, however, several issues need to be Africa, Scanbi-Invest, Stockholm, by Anders Engvall resolved: and Olof Hesselmark, 2007 (PDF) Responsibility/Sidebars_new_concept/ l Interconnection: can the operators be Transformational_Potential_of_M-Transactions/ persuaded to allow shared access to their OptTe.pdf VOD833_Policy_Paper_Series.pdf5 id21 insights 69 September 2007
  6. 6. www.id21.orgMobiles and impoverished Useful web linkshouseholds in Jamaica Development Informatics Group, IDPM, University of ManchesterHow do mobile phones affect low income households? this technology spread so far that it can now create a GSM World – Bridging the Digital Dividedevelopment impact right down to the poorest families? from the Information Society Research Group studied International Telecommunication Unionthese questions. They lived with low income households in www.itu.intone rural and one urban Jamaican community for 12 months, Microsoft Research Technology for Emerging Marketsconducting ethnographic research. Fixed-line access is often, but nearly 100 percent of households have a mobilephone. – A resource for activists using mobile Mobile phones are significant for the day-to-day survival technology worldwidestrategies of poor people but their economic value is not www.mobileactive.orgexploited as expected. Mobile phones are not used for job- Mobiles and Development Dgrouphunting (most believe this requires face-to-face meetings instead). very few use them for business purposes: l Only those few in certain specific forms of employment, such Nokia Research Centre as taxi drivers or musicians, use mobiles to get more custom or talk with existing customers more easily. l Some women who already sell goods (such as chickens) from Vodafone socio-economic impact of mobiles (SIM) research their homes have also started selling pre-paid phone cards. This funds their own phone use and perhaps some of their economic/socio-economic_impact.html children’s educational costs. – Mobile Knowledge for Social ChangeBut around one-third of those interviewed had no income from www.shareideas.organy type of labour or sales. They use their phones to seek moneyfrom others in their social network, including remittances from The Mobile Development Reportfamily and friends overseas, sometimes linked to specific health or needs. The poorest people therefore use the mobile World Bank m-government Related Linksphone not to make money but to get money: it is a means of money from those who might otherwise save or expandbusinesses, to those who have no other income. Mobile phones also have a social value: and liberalisation – has been central to this. To understand the l Crime and fear of crime are major factors in poor people’s impact of mobiles on such groups, policymakers cannot just lives. Mobile ownership increases their sense of security and look at the experiences of richer users, or of other countries and their ability to report crime from the privacy of their homes. regions. They must understand the specific effects of mobile l In the absence of an ambulance service, access to taxis by phones on their own populations; for example through long-term phone provides transport during health emergencies for the ethnographic research. first time. l Some Jamaicans reported feeling ‘pressure’, which includes Daniel Miller Department of Anthropology, University College London, 14 Taviton Street, London elements of loneliness, depression and boredom. In the WC1H 0BW, UK absence of formal help, mobiles are used to reach out to others for advice and support. See alsoOverall, the poorest people use mobile phones to strengthen their The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication, Berg: Oxford, by Heather Horstclose social networks of immediate family and friends. They also and Daniel Miller, 2006use mobiles for ‘link-up’ – short calls averaging 19 seconds – to Jamaica – Summary Findings, Information Society Research Group: London, by Heather Horst and Daniel Miller, 2006broader, more extensive social networks. These short calls sustain until a more specific reason for contact emerges: avisit, a problem, a request for money or information, or beginninga friendship or sexual relationship. These broad, shallow, Subscribe to id21 insightstechnology-enabled networks are central to meeting financial,emotional, sexual and social needs. If you would like to subscribe to id21 insights for free Development practitioners must recognise that mobile please email with your name andphones are now impacting the very poorest members of society. address.Jamaica’s pricing and regulatory regime – a mix of intervention id21 insights is published 10 times a year and is online at Readers may copy or quote from any article, providing the source (id21 insights) and author are acknowl­edged and informed. To subscribe, email with your name and address. id21’s website,, offers free access to over 4,000 research highlights on development policy issues including health, natural resources, education and more. To receive email updates, email with the words ‘subscribe id21news’. id21 id21 is hosted by IDS and is supported by the Department Academic Advisor: Robin Mansell, London School of Institute of Development Studies for International Development. The views expressed in id21 Economics insights do not neces­sarily reflect those of DfID, IDS or any Editor: Freida MCormack University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9RE, UK other contributing institution. IDS is a Charitable Company Senior Editor: Louise Daniel T +44 (0)1273 678787 F +44 (0)1273 877335 No.877338 limited by guarantee and registered in England. Editorial and technical support: id21 team Email ISSN 1460-4205 © Institute of Development Studies 2007 Design: Robert Wheeler Printer: APR LtdKeywords: access, fixed line, ICTs, information and communication technologies, mobile phones, mobiles, networks, text message, service, telephonyid21 insights 69 September 2007 6