Mobile/digital technologies can bridge healthcare gaps. In contrast to the top-down focus of most 'mhealth' initiatives, this panel explores the ways that people across Africa are using phones creatively and innovatively in the pursuit of health(care), and associated connections and disruptions.
Africa's much-heralded 'digital revolution' has generated optimism that mobile/digital technologies can bridge healthcare gaps, connecting geographically remote communities with services - an attractive prospect for international donors who have funded a raft of (often short-term) 'm-health' initiatives across the continent. However, much less visible, but at least as important, have been the myriad ways that people in Africa are already using mobile phones and digital technologies, creatively and innovatively, in the pursuit of health(care) for themselves and others. This panel explores the connections, disconnections and disruptions produced through this 'bottom-up' form of mhealth. Influenced by Hörst and Miller's (2006) concept of the 'society-technology dialectic', we are interested in the ways that 'informal' forms of mobile/digital health may generate new connections (within and beyond Africa), reinforce existing ones, and/or lead to rupture and disconnection. We seek contributions that explore improvisation, innovation and creativity in the use of digital technologies by patients, health-workers, carers, volunteers and others. We particularly welcome ethnographically-rich and theoretically-ambitious papers that challenge existing understandings of connection/disconnection in relation to digital technologies and health(care).