Mobile Phone Revolution and its Dimensional Social and Economic Impacts in Nigeria's Context

Mobile Phone Revolution and its Dimensional Social and Economic Impacts in Nigeria's Context

Okanlade Adesokan Lawal-Adebowale (Federal University of Agriculture, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8598-7.ch016
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The emergence of mobile phone telecommunication in the last thirteen years in Nigeria has greatly revolutionized the dynamics of information exchange and usage by group of individuals in the country. Unlike the past years before 2001 whereby physical contacts and/or letter writing were the major means of interaction between individuals that are farther apart on geospatial dimension, spatial interaction is now the order of the day as a result of institutionalisation of the mobile telephony services in the country. By virtue of the telecom sector deregulation in 2001 and competition for dominance by the four major mobile phone network providers in the country, namely Airtel, MTN, Globacom and Etisalat, as much as 162, 719, 517 lines were actively connected in the country with a teledensity of 94.4 as at July 2014. Based on this, exploitation of the communication tools by Nigerian has effected a transformed social and economic condition of the country in terms of attraction of investors into the telecom sector, generation of income for the Nigerian Government, creation of employment opportunities, ease of business and financial transactions as economic impacts. The social impacts of the mobile phone revolution in the country include facilitation of prompt interactive linkages and exchange of information, entertainment and social networking. Other forms of impacts include its influence on educational and health services in the country. Despite the transformation impact of the mobile phone revolution in the country, exploitation of the communication tool for social vices by unscrupulous individuals was too obvious to be underplayed. The negative impacts arising from nefarious acts-mediated mobile phone usage include loss of hard earned income by unsuspecting individuals to swindlers, road accidents as a result of usage of phone while on the wheel and provision of deceptive information by one person to the other while on phone. This notwithstanding, the telecom sector has proven to be of great value to most Nigerian's as it enabled them to readily interact with one another, facilitate business and financial transactions thereby enhancing their social and economic wellbeing.
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The need to forge effective and interactive communication between two or more individuals, especially over space, engendered the need for development and integration of electronic communication tool(s) in human communication interface. Consequently, the turn of the 21st century witnessed the upsurge of telephony and internet-based communication tools in human’s social and economic interaction on a global scale. This is reflected in the growth of connected telephony lines, either as fixed or mobile lines, from about1.4billion in 1999 to nearly 7billion lines in 2014 (Isiguzo, 2010; ITU, 2014). Such increment is brought about by the advancement of the information-driven technology from the traditional fixed line communication tools, such as wired telephones, fax and telex, and even postal services, to a more robust mobile communication tools, such as mobile phones and internet-based information communication applications such as electronic mail (e-mail) and social media (Facebook, Whatsapp, 2go, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). Given the convergence of these information-driven tools in a simple and single device as smart phones, the telephony device has not only serves as tool of communication, but of facilitation of socioeconomic development and transformation of human society. The dexterity with which the mobile communication device functions and its dynamic of applications to meet and satisfy various human needs engendered the information-driven technology as a tool for accelerated development of national and global economies (Isiguzo, 2010). In the same vein, the World Bank (2006) and the World Economic Forum (2005 – 2006) emphasise that economic development of a nation largely depends on overall development of the country’s telecommunication sector. This is based on the fact that sectors with the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) in their operational functions are more productive and profitable than those not making use of the communication driven-technology.

In view of the growing trend of ICT development, particularly the telephony component, and the successful outcome of its integration in all spheres of human’s life informed the need for the Nigerian government to revolutionise the countries telecommunication sector between 1990 and 2000 through Government enacted privatisation policy of the telecommunication sector. The privatisation action, under the affairs of the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) brought about the emergence of private investors in the telecommunication sector and eventual widespread availability of mobile telephony services in the country (Lawal-Adebowale, 2010). The observed widespread of mobile phone in the country is facilitated by nationwide penetration of the mobile telephony network services put in place by the telecom investors, namely MTN Nigeria, Airtel, Globacom and Etisalat, in the country. Supporting these service providers are the fixed/wireless and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) network providers among which are Multilinks, Starcomms and Visafone. With the dexterity of mobile communications, the network services providers did not limit their services to voice communication, which of course was the initial primary function, but have had it advanced to internet service provision, video calls, graphics text messages and mobile television thus creating the platform for dynamic usage of the telephony applications and services in the country.

In view of this, field observation shows that mobile phones and its integrated applications had been extensively utilised in various ways and for different purposes. As indicated by Isiguzo (2010), mobile phones had been extensively applied by Nigerians in their daily and essential social and economic endeavours, among which are information communication, entertainment, shopping, education, banking and medicare. With mobile phone applications creating enabling environment for interaction and bringing a wide variety of services to most Nigerians, Pyramid Research (2010) indicated that mobile communication services have had greater impact on the citizenry. In view of this, and with nearly one and a half decade of mobile telephony service delivery and usage in Nigeria (2001 – 2014), it becomes essential to evaluate the extent and dimension impacts of mobile phone usage in the country.

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