The study “Determinants of Mobile Phone Use in West Africa. Findings from an Empirical Study in The Gambia” was carried out as a master thesis project by Johanna Hartung with support of our research division.
Using data from a survey with about 300 respondents in the West African country of The Gambia, the study by Hartung attempts to provide insight into mobile phone use patterns from a communication science perspective. Based on a combination of theoretical approaches including diffusion theory, media appropriation and the uses and gratifications approach, the study explores and explains patterns of mobile phone use.
Results reveal that some social functions are positively related to the frequency of use, while internal restrictions, such as the perceived financial or temporal limitations, affect it in a negative way. Social norms and technical modes of appropriation seem to have little influence on the overall frequency of mobile phone use. When looking particularly at the use of the mobile phone as a calling device, the mode of appropriation is more important. Those who share the phone with other people (which is quite common in the Gambia), those who spend more money on their phones and those who embrace the social and professional functions, are more likely to use the mobile phone for calling than for other (gaming, texting) purposes.
Besides a better theoretical understanding of diffusion of media innovations in regions beyond the usually well researched western countries, findings from this study may also help adjusting strategies for implementing mobile phone-based public services and develop business models suited to the needs of the population in developing countries.