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Mobile phones, gender, and female empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa: studies with African youth

Porter, Gina; Hampshire, Kate; Abane, Albert; Munthali, Alister; Robson, Elsbeth; De Lannoy, Ariane; Tanle, Augustine; Owusu, Samuel


Gina Porter

Kate Hampshire

Albert Abane

Alister Munthali

Ariane De Lannoy

Augustine Tanle

Samuel Owusu


Data from qualitative and survey research with young people in 24 locations (urban and rural) across Ghana, Malawi, and South Africa expose the complex interplay between phone ownership and usage, female empowerment, and chronic poverty in Africa. We consider gendered patterns of phone ownership and use before examining practices of use in educational settings, in business and in romantic and sexual relationships. While some reshaping of everyday routines is evident, in the specific context of female empowerment we find little support within our sites for the concept of the mobile phone as an instrument of positive transformative change. The phone's application in romantic and sexual relationships demonstrates particularly strongly the way phones are complicit in constraining women's empowerment and points to potential wider repercussions, including for educational and entrepreneurship trajectories. Women's agency is still mired within wider structures of patriarchy and chronic poverty: existing inequalities are being re-inscribed and reinforced.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date May 28, 2019
Journal Information Technology for Development
Print ISSN 0268-1102
Electronic ISSN 1554-0170
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 1-14
APA6 Citation Porter, G., Hampshire, K., Abane, A., Munthali, A., Robson, E., De Lannoy, A., …Owusu, S. (2019). Mobile phones, gender, and female empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa: studies with African youth. Information Technology for Development, 1-14.
Keywords Development; Public Administration; Computer Science Applications
Publisher URL
Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope: http://www.tandfonline....ope&journalCode=titd20; Published: 2019-05-28


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Copyright Statement
© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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