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: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7598-6.ch075

Abstract

Mobile technology today is increasingly being used to help improve underdeveloped 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 chapter was to examine the different ways mobile technology was being used to help the residents of Sub-Saharan Africa in the sectors of healthcare 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

978-1-5225-7598-6.ch075.f01
As stated by Pew Global (2015).
Figure 2.

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

978-1-5225-7598-6.ch075.f02
As stated by Pew Global (2015).

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