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“we use it different, different” June 12, 2007

Posted by François in baroque, reachability.

Araba Sey opened her presentation a few weeks ago at the ICA conference with this story:
“Wofa is a fisherman in Prampram, a village just outside the capital of Ghana. His home does not have an official address, but he has his mobile phone number written over the doorway so that he is always reachable. He wishes he could do more than just make and receive calls on his phone, but he cannot read or write in English. He bought his phone in 2005 mainly because he believed it would help him with his work. There is some evidence that mobile phones have become an important business resource for fishermen in Ghana. However, trying to associate particular poverty reduction benefits with use of mobile phones by poor people is likely to lead to some surprises, and even disappointment. Because, as Wofa said to me when I asked how he and his fellow fishermen use mobile phones, “We use it different, different”. Meaning we use it in many different ways.”

It is fascinating how Wofa has re-made his phone into a doorbell (a few days ago, I would have said “appropriated his phone as a doorbell,” but I thought I’d test-drive the new labels Pierre suggested.) It very nicely underscores that a key feature of mobile phones is to provide reacheability. That often seems much more important than the ability to reach out.

(a copy of Araba’s presentation is available on the ARNIC site [PDF-174Kb])