Uses of Mobile Phones in Post-Conflict Liberia
Best, Michael L.
Smyth, Thomas N.
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Liberia is a country emerging from years of protracted and devastating civil conflict. Left without any fixed-line telephone infrastructure, it relies solely on the mobile phone for telephony. This study investigates the usage of mobile phones in this immediate post-conflict setting. In particular, we adopt the uses and gratifications approach to media research, giving focus to both instrumental and intrinsic motivations for use. We surveyed 85 mobile phone users in both the capital city of Monrovia and various rural areas, as well as interviewing experts from two major service providers and the industry regulator. Users were interviewed using the Q methodology, which identified distinct perspectives within these urban and rural groups. These identified perspectives included sets of users who saw their phones as productivity enhancers, means of connectivity to family and friends, essential business tools, technological curiosities, and sources of personal security. The idea of a phone as a stylish object was markedly rejected, especially in rural areas. Expert interviews confirmed and supplemented these findings. We contrast these results from Liberia with previous work from Kigali, Rwanda, finding differences especially as related to security.