Mobile Technologies Impact on Economic Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Mobile Technologies Impact on Economic Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Adam Crossan (Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Ireland), Nigel McKelvey (Computer Science Department, Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Ireland) and Kevin Curran (Ulster University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch540
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Abstract

Mobile technology today is increasingly being used to help improve under developed and developing areas such as sub Saharan Africa. With the statistics showing the number of adults in Africa owning mobile devices steadily increasing, mobile technology has been a popular area of interest to use to help improve areas such as healthcare and education throughout African cities and rural areas. The purpose of this study was to examine the different ways mobile technology was being used to help the residents of sub-Saharan Africa in the sectors of health care and education, and examine the possible ethical effects these technologies could be having. The study concludes that while the mobile technology can be implemented to help better the standard of health and education, it is mainly focused on urban areas and contributing to a poverty imbalance between urban and rural Africa.
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Background

Mobile Technology is a sweeping term covering many different areas of technology. Many of the uses for this technology in developed countries include helping with general day to day operations for the user such as online banking, shopping, or social media applications. Mobile technology is a sector which is growing rapidly, and also merging with other sectors to help make use of the technologies full potential. One of the areas where mobile technology has been proven to be successful, is when using simple technology and mobile devices to help developing countries such as Africa (Aker & Mbiti, 2010). Many different organizations and companies are using mobile technology to accomplish huge feats for rural African villages. A leading success story has been the M-Pesa service launched in 2007 by Vodafone for Safaricom and Vodacom. This has generator mobile money revenues of more than $300 million in 2004. This makes it the most successful mobile transfer service at this time. It has now expanded to Afghanistan, South Africa, India and Eastern Europe. It seems to have found its niche market. In Kenya alone, mobile money transactions totalled $22+ billion in 2013. Other African countries such as Sudan, Somalia, Tanzania, and South Africa are also huge revenue generators for operators as well (BBC Africa, 2015).

Mobile Tech in Africa

In today’s world when discussing developing countries, the most commonly mentioned country is Africa. Africa is known worldwide for its widespread poverty, levels of education, unsanitary living conditions, gang violence and high mortality, and birth rates. Many companies and organizations are now turning to mobile technology to help combat these issues facing those living in Africa. With the increase in advancements in technology, many organizations and companies are researching and looking into how some technologies could be adapted to help reach areas which are usually not easily accessible. A simple yet effective method at developing communication with these areas is through mobile devices. In recent years the ownership of mobile phones in Africa have increased rapidly, with the percentage of adults who own a phone rising from 64% in 2002 to now match the US with 89% in 2014 (Global, 2015). An infographic depicting this information can be seen in Figure 1. As shown in reports conducted by Pew Global (2015), the most popular activity for mobile phone users in Africa is sending text messages. The report shows that 80% adult cell phone owners use their phone mostly to send text messages as seen in Figure 2. SMS is arguably the most popular activity in this area due to the fact that many in this area only have ownership of a cell phone rather than smartphone, with a study conducted on Nigerian residents showing that although 89% of the population there owned a mobile phone only 27% owned a smartphone (Pew Global, 2015).

Figure 1.

Percentage of what adults use their mobile devices for in sub-Saharan Africa

As stated by Pew Global (2015).
Figure 2.

Infographic depicting the number of adults who own a mobile device globally

As stated by Pew Global (2015).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Advance Fee Scam (Nigeria 419): An advance fee fraud which involves a payment in advance with the promise of wealth, wills, gifts, employment or prizes. The scammer contacts their intended target via mail, phone, fax or email. Originally known as the Spanish Prisoner Letter it has been carried out since at least the 16 th century via ordinary postal mail. Section 419 of the Nigerian Penal Code prohibits this type of activity and it has often referred to as ‘419 frauds’ or ‘Nigeria 419’.

Short Message Service (SMS): A simple text messaging service component found in phones, the Web, or in mobile communication systems. It adopts a series of standardized communications protocols which enables either fixed line or mobile phone devices to exchange short text messages. More commonly referred to using the term “SMS” it is used for both user activity and all types of short text messaging in many parts of the world.

Ethical Standards: Principles which when followed will promote values such as trust, good behaviour, fairness and/or kindness. One consistent set of standards that all companies follow does not exist but rather each company has the right to develop a set of standards which are meaningful to that particular organization.

Personal Data: Data relating to a living individual who is or can be identified from the data or using the data in conjunction with other information which is in or likely to come into the possession of the data controller.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Geographically refers to all the areas of the continent of Africa which lie south of the Sahara Desert. Some of the countries which fall into this category include countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT): An umbrella term which includes any communication device or application, encompassing: radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems and so on, as well as the various services and applications. The term ICT however has no set definition as the concepts methods and applications involved in ICT are constantly changing almost on a daily basis.

Mobile Technology: A technology which is used for the purpose of cellular communication. The standard mobile device has moved from being a simple two- way pager to being a mobile phone. Mobile technology as the name implies refers to a technology which is portable. Examples of mobile IT devices include: laptops, netbook computers, tablets, smart phones, global positioning system (GPS) devices

Mobile Point of Care (MPOC): Involves the use of multitasking devices which support clinician use cases, improve productivity, streamline communication and bridge the gap between inpatient and outpatient care This fast growing area provides an abundance of apps for mobile devices and will change the way healthcare is delivered providing the opportunity for remote monitoring, measuring drug response, tools for drug development and diagnostic assistance for point-of-care and management of chronic or infectious disease.

Developing Countries: Often referred to as underdeveloped countries and they refer to countries where there is a less developed industrial base and they have a low Human Development Index (HDI). Developing countries differentiate from developed countries in that the people have a lower life expectancy, lower standard of education and the people of developing countries have a lower income and thus less money.

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