Mobile Instant Messaging used to Provide Support and Advice to South African Youth

Mobile Instant Messaging used to Provide Support and Advice to South African Youth

Marlon Parker, Julia Wills, Lucille Aanhuizen, Lester Gilbert, Gary Wills
DOI: 10.4018/jictrda.2012070102
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Drug Advice Support (DAS), via mobile instant messaging originated in RLabs, South Africa. The question in this research was could DAS be scaled up in different geographical and ethnic areas in Cape Town? An investigation using mixed methods and triangulation of data sources compared performance and outcomes over five areas. Results showed that calls were classified into relationship, sex information and drug advice, There are statistical differences in outcomes across the five areas. It was discovered that some calls required intervention by statutory agencies. The research demonstrated that DAS can be used beyond RLabs if proper pre-requisites and training are put in place.
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1. Introduction

Instant messaging through mobile phones is being increasingly used in developing communities (Donner, 2008; Bunting, 2011; Castells, et al 2007). At RLabs in Cape Town South Africa, instant messaging via mobile phones was used to offer drug advice and support (DAS) to local citizens in need (Nitsckie & Parker, 2009). The objective of this research was to explore if mobile counselling undertaken by RLabs using the DAS system could be scaled up to achieve equal results in different locations in Cape Town. To help answer this objective the following questions were asked:

  • 1.

    What kind of support is DAS being used for in each of the locations and how effectively is DAS used across all locations?

  • 2.

    How is DAS supporting the mission of the counselling providers and the recipients; does this differ between Athlone, the host centre and the scaled up centres?

  • 3.

    Were the advantages of the DAS system demonstrated through the scaling up process?

The method chosen to investigate this question was a mixed methods investigation using qualitative and quantitative data, requiring triangulation of data from three sources 1) content analysis of MIM calls, 2) surveys of callers and 3) semi structured questionnaires to trained councillors from across the five centres. The research gathered data to ascertain if there was a difference in the amount of chats, themes of chats and effectiveness of counselling in the five districts and whether the advantages of the DAS system as identified by Parker were transferable through the DAS scale up process (Parker, 2011).

This paper sets out in section 2 the background to the RLab project, drug and alcohol problems and counselling services available in Cape Town and, the development of mobile technology and its use by young people in South Africa. The research questions are set out in section 3. A methodology section 4, explores the concept of mixed methods, triangulation, and content analysis. The results of the investigation are displayed in section 5 including new material on calls that had legal connotations, that was discovered in the in-depth content analysis. The Discussion section 6 reflects on the use of content analysis software, issues with triangulation sources, and explores the role of civic society in wireless group formation. The report conclusions in section 7 demonstrate the pre- requisites that may be necessary for successful scale up of the DAS counselling help line.


2. Background

In this section we set the context in which RLabs was initiated and the research questions to be investigated.

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