Livelihood Changes Enabled by Mobile Phones : the case of Tanzanian fishermen
Mobile phones have had a tremendous diffusion rate in Africa in recent years. This has brought access to telecommunication to new user groups, among them Tanzanian fishermen. But how does mobile phone use affect the way fishermen live their lives, how they pursue economic activities and how they protect themselves from vulnerability to risk?
During a field study in Tanzania, interviews with fish boat captains were conducted in order to investigate what impact mobile phone use has on the livelihood indicators empowerment, opportunity and vulnerability to risk. Our research shows that increased access to information, enabled by mobile phones brings positive effects to all indicators. Mobile phone use empowers, both through increased bargaining power and increased control over external events. Mobile phones give increased knowledge about market opportunities and a possibility to work more efficiently. Furthermore, mobile phones give fishermen a possibility to take measures to decrease the risks they are exposed to, such as emergencies out at sea. The negative effects are found negligible. These effects are most likely not isolated to Tanzanian fishermen. Communication through mobile phones can bring similar advantages to other groups that have earlier been excluded from the communication system.
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