Squaring the circle of mobile for good: do digital inequalities deepen existing axes of inequality?
Becky Faith (Institute of Development Studies)
Paper short abstract:
Mobile for good programmes can serve as a collision point where pervasive narratives of mobile phones empowering women come crashing into the realities of the ways that technology can reproduce and further entrenching existing axes of inequality.
Paper long abstract:
mNutrition is a five-year global initiative supported by the Department for International Development (DFID) to use mobile technology to improve the health and nutritional status of children and adults in low-income countries. In Tanzania women receive information about breastfeeding and child nutrition via SMS. This paper draws on data from a multi-year qualitative evaluation of the programme in Tanzania. Whilst women in the target regions have clear knowledge gaps in these areas and struggle to access credible information to address these gaps, the effectiveness of the programme risks being hampered by persistent gender inequalities which limit women's access to mobile phones. As poor, uneducated, rural women these women face multiple, intersecting inequalities. This paper illuminates both the direct value of these services in meeting women's information needs, but also the ways that these multiple axes of inequality - of gender, geography, access to energy and poverty - intersect, and are amplified by inequalities in technology access and use.
Digital development [paper]