Mobiles and Market Women in Ghana

Enhancing Micro-Trading Capabilities through Mobile Phones: The Case of Women Traders in Ghana

This paper investigates the impact of mobile phones on the micro-trading activities of women traders in Ghana. The research develops a conceptual model analyzing the impact of mobile phones on pre-trade, during-trade and post-trade activities. A case study approach is adopted and the findings suggest that traders primarily use mobile phones to communicate and exchange information in pre-and post-trade activities. A few traders innovatively also use them to manage customer details and scheduling deliveries in during-trade activities. This innovative use of mobile phones is a function of their pre-knowledge which may have been developed through formal education and/or social networks. Improving information management through mobile phones directly or indirectly contributes to the economic empowerment of the trader. The study concludes that developing the capabilities of the poor to use basic mobile functions and services, beyond voice calls, should define the agenda of future research, polices and strategies towards the “mobiles for development” movement.  The conceptual model developed may inform future research in mobile phones and micro-trading activities.


Boateng, R. (2010). Enhancing Micro-Trading Capabilities through Mobile Phones: The Case of Women Traders in Ghana, International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) Working Group 9.4, 20(1), 2-8.


I. Introduction

There has been a tremendous growth in mobile phone ownership and use globally. Statistics from the International Telecommunication Union [1] tend to suggest that mobile phone subscribers currently constitute 60 percent of the world population.  The report also suggests that there are now more mobile phone users in the developing world than in the developed world. In countries like Ghana, it is estimated that, there are 50 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, and further, the ratio of mobile cellular subscriptions to fixed telephone lines is 80 to 1 [2]. The rapid diffusion of this relatively low-cost technology has spurred a development agenda questioning how mobile phones can be harnessed more effectively for socio-economic development in developing economies and other resource-poor contexts.

Initial efforts to finding answers to these questions can be analyzed from two perspectives: the practitioner and academic research perspectives. The initiatives of mobile network operators, banks, entrepreneurs, governments and development agencies characterize efforts from the practitioner perspective. These efforts tend to focus on the design and adoption of mobile applications for micro-finance activities or to enhance access to financial services [3],[4]. Efforts addressing the impact of mobiles on development concerns and needs – combating poverty and stimulating economic growth – are quite few. This imbalance is also reflected on the academic research front [5]. There is a preponderance of research studies documenting the business models which characterize the initial efforts of practitioners, mobile operators and banks. Academics are yet to catch up with studies seeking development solutions through mobile phones [5],[6]. Some of the few studies making strides at correcting the imbalance argue that there are complexities of factors which affect the poor and hence, make it challenging for researchers to conceptualize the associated needs and impact of mobile phones with one theoretical model or theory [7]. This often contributes to the blurred distinctions between amplification and transformational effects and also between social and production (business) spheres in adoption and usage [3]. Thus, future studies will have to draw on a more comprehensive approach to evaluate the multi-stranded impact of mobile phones on the livelihoods of adopters.

This paper responds to this call for research. The paper investigates the impact of mobile phones on the micro-trading activities of women traders in Ghana. Extant literature has fairly covered studies on the mobile phones usage and mobiles for development in sub-Saharan Africa. The studies include mobile phones and fisherman and farmers in Ghana [8]; mobile phone sharing practices in Ghana [9]; mobile phones and development in Nigeria [6],[10]; and mobile phone ownership and social capital in Tanzania and South Africa [11]. Despite these studies there is a call for more studies to test earlier findings in different contexts and in different micro-economic activities in order to contribute to better understanding of the impact of mobile phones in developing economies. The underpinning research question is: What is the impact of mobile phones on the micro-trading activities of women traders in Ghana?

The paper is organized in six sections. Section one covered the introduction of the paper. Section two examines mobile phones and micro-trading to develop the research framework for this study. Section three presents the research methods for the study. Section four presents the case studies of two women traders. The analysis of the cases studies are presented in section five and the conclusions and directions for future research are discussed in section six.

Download here: IFIP 9.4 Newsletter, Volume 20, No. 1, February 2010
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This entry was posted in ICTs in Sub-Saharan Africa, Mobiles for Development. Bookmark the permalink.

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