The Emerging Market of Sub-Saharan Africa and Technology Adoption: Features Users Desire in Mobile Phones

The Emerging Market of Sub-Saharan Africa and Technology Adoption: Features Users Desire in Mobile Phones

Alice S. Etim (Winston-Salem State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jictrda.2012010102
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Abstract

In the United States, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and several emerging economies in Asia, mobile technologies have become ubiquitous and core to everyday lives. The same cannot be said for many countries in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). The availability, affordability and use of information and communication technology (ICT) continue to pose a major challenge to the progress of this important emerging economy and their participation in a networked and “flat world.” Writers (Bishop et al., 1999; ADB, 2003; Fisher et al., 2004; Elijah & Ogunlade, 2006; Etim, 2009; Ssewanyana, 2007) argue for the use of ICT to enable the SSA population in the area of economic and personal development. This paper examines the emerging economy of SSA adoption of mobile technologies in comparison to the U.S.A and reports a study on the features that SSA students desire in mobile phones. The key finding was that study participants desired Internet access via mobile phones.
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Introduction

In the United States, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and several emerging economies in Asia, mobile technologies have become ubiquitous and core to everyday lives. In a PEW Internet Study (2010), those surveyed were of the opinion that mobile technologies are taking over our lives and by 2020, most of us will be working remotely by connecting to cyberspace-based apps (“in the cloud”) via our smartphones and other mobile devices. It is in the technology, access and affordability that the U.S. significantly differs from SSA. While a large percentage of mobile phone users in the U.S. are using third and fourth generation phones (3G and 4G) with data and Internet access capabilities along with a long list of apps or other features like camera, music, games, etc., mobile phone users in SSA are only able to get basic 2G GSM (global system for mobile) phones that are predominantly used for voice calling and texting (Short Message Service or SMS text). PEW Research (2010a) found that nearly 90% of U.S. teens have mobile phones and they send and receive on the average 50 texts per day. Few teens in SSA can boast of basic mobile phones. The mobile Web is growing in the U.S., but this great technology is a mirage to the people of SSA and such ICT lack contributes significantly to extreme poverty. There is also very little literature that has been done to attempt to understand ICT and mobile phone adoption or the use of the mobile Web in SSA. The aim of this ICT study therefore was to investigate the features in mobile phones that students in an important emerging economy in SSA desire to have for their ICT needs. Specifically, the following research questions were answered:

  • (1)

    What percentage of the participants in the study owned mobile phones or SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) card?

  • (2)

    What factors contributed to mobile phone purchase decisions given the fact that some of the people are faced with extreme economic or information poverty?

  • (3)

    What are the features that the people desire in their mobile phones that are lacking in the brands that they currently own?

Literature Review

Kroski (2008) defines the mobile Web as the World Wide Web accessed through a mobile device that ranges from a cellular phone to an iPod Touch. Such mobile devices and handsets (a familiar name in SSA for all kinds of mobile phones) have enabled Web capabilities that go beyond making calls, checking e-mail and downloading ringtones to a range of apps such as viewing weather forecast, retrieving traffic information, checking airlines schedules, accessing various banking systems to conducting secure transactions, and checking out e-books/journals from local libraries. These phones are smart enough to allow the convergence of a computer, phone, camera, media player into a single handheld device. Kroski (2008) asserts that this evolution of handheld devices provides the most complete experience for the user because they are combined with the new high speed wireless data network access to the Internet.

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