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Mobile Phones in rural life: Insights from fieldwork in western Kenya. Presentation to CDCs and MOH 24 September 2008 Laura Murphy, PhD Tulane University. Study site & topic. “Hybrid Technologies” Mobile Phones, Kitchen Gardens & HIV/AIDS

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Mobile Phones in rural life: Insights from fieldwork in western Kenya

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Mobile phones in rural life insights from fieldwork in western kenya l.jpg

Mobile Phones in rural life: Insights from fieldwork in western Kenya

Presentation to CDCs and MOH

24 September 2008

Laura Murphy, PhD

Tulane University

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Study site & topic

  • “Hybrid Technologies”

  • Mobile Phones,

  • Kitchen Gardens & HIV/AIDS

  • Case study of social and technological change in a village

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Sidenote: Other “Mobile Phone Research”

  • -national GDP

  • -impacts on fish trade

  • commercial farming

  • Small business

  • Financial transactions

  • Mpesa for remittances

  • entrepreneurship

Image source: The Economist

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  • A study of changing livelihoods,

  • responses to HIV/AIDS,

  • the social construction of technology

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Amaranth and other local plants: still grown?

Pre WWII hoes

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Marakaru,Bungoma DistrictVillage case study

Household survey (census), in-depth interviews with owners, group discussions

Population of 5100 in 848 households (29 non-response) in 15 square kilometer catchment area

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  • Who owns phones?

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Findings: phone ownership

  • Households owning >1 phone:15% (125 HH)

  • Primary owner is male head: 78%

  • Owners education levels > secondary:59%

  • Year first phone acquired:1999

  • MP HH with HH-head working away: 21%

  • Non MP HH with head working away:5%

  • Respondents who “ever used” MP: 38%

  • Range spending/month/airtime only: Ksh 50-6500

  • Airtime use/month, all owners: Ksh 95,000

  • 6% of owners account for 20% of airtime spending

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Phone use

  • Voice > text: “Ear to Ear”

  • Personal/household/communal uses vs. strictly business

  • Strengthen family & local networks

  • Sharing phones, but reluctantly

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Mobile phone users in 2007 group discussion

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Significance to rural lives

  • Phones mean freedom, convenience and connections

  • Replace costly transport: foot, matatu, bus

  • KSH, time and uncertainty

  • Communication vs. information

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Rural User #1. Farmer/Community Health Worker/”Long-Distance Housewife”

  • “R” got a phone in 2003 (used Nokia 3310).

  • In her mid-40s now, she uses a phone to help manage a small farm, raise 6 children (& grandchildren). Her husband lives in Mombasa most of the year and sends airtime and brings home cash.

  • HIV+ (on ART in 2006), she is active in her HIV support group and volunteers as CHW and HBC.

  • Death & disease figure in her conversations about how her phone is useful.

  • It is important for “knowing about people” but and sometimes for finding about prices.

  • Text messaging is something she just learned: amazing, you just “write a message!”

  • Cost and inconvenience of charging a phone are large problems. She lacks cash so “I never buy any airtime”.

  • While expensive, with the phone, you “Can’t starve to communicate!”

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Rural User #2: Grower/Trader

  • “E” (24) is the eldest son in a large family, still single and living in his father’s household.

  • He has a new Moto c113 (2007) –the only phone in the household, replacing older handsets

  • Farming is a business: the phone helps with “tenders to K-- and B– schools”

  • He likes voice more than texting: you talk “Ear to Ear”

  • The phone must be shared as it is not “mine alone”, but changing SIM cards is frustrating!

  • He feels privileged “…walking with MP” and my “heart is ..happy”

  • Without phone, I was in total darkness”

  • (In July 2008: We could not reach him on his old line which is “out of service”)

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  • Cost a lot of money!

  • “Lack of cash” #1 constraint to owning handset among non-owners, and operating (owners)

  • Charging batteries

  • poor quality batteries, poor access to electricity is #1 problem for owners

  • Hard to maintain! (handsets & Lines)

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Charging those batteries (1)

  • “There was a time I wanted to call a friend… it just made a funny sound …there was etaa ye lichumuni (a lantern lamp) and writings saying “slow (low) battery”. I was told that it meant that kumulilo kwa welemo (the charge was finished)...”

  • (Wilfred, age 60+)

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Charging those batteries (2)

  • Spent on commercial charging kiosks: Ksh 100-200/mo

  • Plus travel time & uncertainty

  • Batteries ruined through generic chargers

  • Local owners with access to electrical outlet: 18% (teachers, etc.)

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Solar not yet the answer

Rose testing Ksh 5000 portable charger: Repair costs Ksh 650

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Lack of continuity: phone update 2008

  • 44% (35/84) households reached by original phone number

  • 24% “line out of service”

  • 31% temporarily out (call diverted, out of signal, switched off)

  • Phone survey over 5 consecutive days (Fri-Tues) in July 08

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Implications for health communications & applications

  • Mobile phones not widespread in all rural communities (social differences)

  • Poorest don’t own/use MP effectively

  • Text messaging not yet popular

  • ‘keeping track’ for privacy & targeting a problem with mobility and turnover

  • Health professionals lack electricity, cash too

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