Using my own ethnographic research data from Ghana in 2010-2011 and an intensive literature review in 2013, this paper explores gender and organisational challenges in implementing, scaling up, and sustaining mobile phone-based health projects in HIV/AIDS initiatives in Ghana, South Africa, and Uganda.
The use of mobile technology for health outcomes, known as mobile health or m-Health, has been advocated as an innovative tool for improving both access to and quality of health care, including faster health information flow. At its most basic level, the concept of using ICTs to propel health and development is a paradigm which presupposes that the availability of, and access to, ICTs will lead to improved health outcomes. Yet, there are peculiar gender and organisational drawbacks.
In Ghana, for example, some users might have multiple subscriptions while others have no access to phones; there also exist institutional and organisational obstacles, which justify the scholarship cautioning against enthusiasm and optimistic views that mobile phones will incontrovertibly improve health outcomes in low-income societies.
This paper contributes to the mobiles-for-development and ICTs and gender (in)equality literature, as well as the scholarship calling for a closer attention and evaluation of M-Health in Africa. The paper concludes that the problem remains how institutional arrangements and gender challenges can be overcome for projects to be scaled up, and how various stakeholders can co-operate to provide applications in affordable and sustainable ways for HIV/AIDS initiatives in Africa.