Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mobile Rural Costs for Women

Recently Johannesburg was the host to Mobile Active 08 – a meeting of researchers, innovators, engineers and technology enthusiasts from around the world to explore together the social impacts of mobile telephony. It was a perfect preparation time for me to think about Women and Mobile and present about certain aspects from Africa. For example, mobiles have had ridiculous growth in Africa averaging over 1000 % more subscribers than in 2001. However, despite the growth, let us not assume women are part of this accessibility.

First off, we would certainly consider cost as a major deterrent. Did you know that in developed countries average 2-3% proportion of their budgets to communication while Africa averages around 10%? This is only average, and you can imagine that even more poor citizens paying more because they will likely pay the highest amount per call using low-denomination airtime credit, and spend proportionally more for maintaining broken second-hand phones because of new battery purchase, or the amount of electricity charging frequency each week on top of low erratic incomes.

With these high costs, you see women making sacrifices or substitutions within their meagre household budgets to accommodate for communication costs. Some cases, a reduction of food can merely mean eating more food from the garden or farm. However in other cases, one can even find themselves not eating for the day in order to have airtime credit.

In the development sphere, which looks at technology and social practices, how do we seek solutions in overcoming these challenges for women who are looking to this communication device for a change today in their lives?

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