What is the influence of Information and Communication Technologies on mobility and migration in the Horn of Africa?

On March 11 2021, REF convened a webinar exploring how Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) affect intentions and behaviours related to mobility within the Horn of Africa (HoA). The webinar was based on a rapid review  by Dr. Peter Chonka and Yidnekachew Haile. The discussant for the webinar was Daniel Mwesigwa from the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).

Mobile phone and internet use has surged in Sub-Saharan Africa thanks to advances in technological availability and decreasing costs. Basic phone access and use have become an integral part of people’s lives, both as an ‘everyday’ technology for mobile livelihoods or for those who are migrating or displaced. Mobile money technology has also become a critical financial tool in several countries of the HoA and digital remittances have become the backbone for many African households. Despite these advancements, the digital divide and digital inequalities persist. Some of the factors explored in the webinar in this regard are age, gender, socio-economic and political conditions, and infrastructural variability. Digital literacy, secondary factors such as charging stations and access to mobile data, deficits in education and other such constraints remain key barriers to ICT use in the HoA.

Whether ICT use has an impact on mobility remains an unanswered question as the link between these is complex and multidimensional. Drawing a causal connection would be erroneous and would require an investigation into wider processes of growth. However, through their interventions, the webinar presenters and discussant challenge notions about how technology and mobility intersect, how ICT has been exploited by users, and the multiple meanings of ICT infrastructure, which should be enlarged from its current conceptualization of ‘copper wires and fiber optic cables’ to people and their connections.

You can watch a recording of the webinar below and you may also be interested to read the blog by Chonka and Haile, Mobile people’s mobile phones – how do information and communication technologies (ICTs) affect mobility and migration in the Horn of Africa?.

Image: © 2018 European Union (photographer: Barbara Minishi)

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