Mobile Phone Use in Electricity Scarce Context

In today’s world, one can easily see the need for mobile phones and energy (electricity). Mobile phones need electricity for continuous power supply to enable continuity of services rendered via mobile phones.

MTC, as the largest telecommunications company in Namibia, promises network coverage to 100% of Namibians by 2023 via its 081Every1 project. Statistics (refer to the MTC Integrated Annual Report 2020) show 45.20% 4G coverage, 87.38% 3G coverage, and 97.18% coverage.

This practically means that 97.18% of Namibia has network coverage and one can make and receive calls and messages. In many developing countries, rural areas are off national grid infrastructure. Namibia is no exception as statistics (refer to the NDP5) show that close to 50% of Namibians do not have access to electricity. Though this is the case, MTC reports 2.6 million active subscribers. This could mean that even those in electricity scarce areas have mobile phones.

A study titled Understanding Mobile Phone Use in Electricity Scarce Context: Extended TAM for Sub-Saharan African Countries, found that there are mobile phones in electricity scarce villages and they are mostly used for:

  • Communication,
  • Socialisation, and
  • Business

This study concluded that people in electricity scarce villages power their mobile phones through various means such as:

  • Power banks,
  • Solar power systems,
  • Car batteries, and
  • Generators as these are the options available to them at the time the study was done. Some of the challenges experienced by participants in this study include: Charging cost, Social connections: one has to know someone at a place with electricity, Distance travelled to the nearest charging point, and Theft at the charging point and highjacking on the way to the charging point.

The study further highlighted the effects of scarce electricity on mobile phone users’ experience as:

  • Missing of phone calls while at a charging point &/or when its off,
    >> If one misses phone calls, it could result in missed opportunities such as job-related ones
    >> Inability to reach relatives especially during emergencies
  • Users missing hospital reminders and notifications
    >> If one misses hospital reminders and notifications, it could result in missed medications and appointments
  • Missing out on being online
    >> Inability to access online education, social media, emails.

MTC reports 2.6 million active subscribers. This could mean that, even those in electricity scarce areas have mobile phones.

NB: These are deduced notions from the aforementioned study

Though MTC has 2.6 million users and 97.18% coverage:

  • some of its users could possibly be missing out on the likes of ‘Happy Hours data’ because their battery powered mobile phone could not get charged.
  • Which could result in missed potential revenue (MTC) and poor customer satisfaction as a secondary effect.
  • There seems to be a need to match the accessibility of electricity to the MTC network coverage to compare apples to apples, and possibly reap mutual benefits.

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