The rapid growth of mobile phone usage in developing countries has become the trend in recent years. A lot of the developing countries have virtually directed their focus from fixed line infrastructure to the mobile phone technology. The mobile phone technology has become the predominant means of communication in most developing countries. It is perhaps the most widely used tool among the information communication technologies (ICTs) in Africa. While developing countries, particularly, Africa lags behind developed countries in the overall ICT usage and applications, the mobile phone has been regarded as a more accessible and less expensive means to close the digital divide, (Wade, 2004). The case is no different in Ghana as there are more mobile phone users than fixed lines and computers. In Ghana for instance one does not need any formal education nor huge sum of money to be able to acquire and use a mobile phone. Almost everybody now uses a mobile phone regardless of their financial and educational status standing.
The rich, the poor and illiterate alike either use or own a mobile phone. There are so many reasons why people use mobile phones. Some of the reasons include basic literacy, its ability to allow for the transfer of data which can be used in the context of application for health, governance and commerce purposes in addition to voice communication. It is also used as innovative means of payments and transactions such as mobile money and prepaid payments.
Reasons such as those mentioned earlier have continuously made mobile phones more appealing, accessible and also affordable to people in the lower income bracket thereby, enhancing their participation in the development of their nations. As the number of mobile phone users increase, the need to conduct research on the pattern of its use also surges. As a result, a lot of studies have
been conducted on the use of the mobile phone technology among various groups in different sections in society including low income earners, middle income earners, students and market women on their use and how the technology helps improve learning and also in transforming businesses.
However, very few studies exist on the use of this technology among head porters who are part of the very low incoming earning groups in Ghana. Most of the studies on them tend to look at their vulnerabilities. But this study seeks to find out whether low income earners like the head porters or Kayayei in Ghana have also adopted the mobile phone technology.
The study has been categorized into five chapters. This chapter which is the opening chapter comprises the background to the study, statement of the problem, research objectives, significance of the study and the scope of the study. The rest include operational definitions and organisation of the thesis.
Background of the study
Mobile phones have become so common and widespread in Ghana such that almost everybody in Ghana now uses the mobile phone technology for one reason or the other. This was not the case some two decades ago. The land phone or fixed line was a preserve for the rich some 20 years ago. Only a few people could afford fix land phones in their homes let alone acquire and use mobile phones.
As of 1992, there were 279,000 fixed telephones representing a penetration of 0.3% in Ghana according to World Bank country statistics (Ahortor, 2003).The only company that provided fixed line services was Ghana Telecom, now Vodafone. With the liberalization of the telecommunication sector in 1993 came Western Telesystems (Westel) as the second main fixed
line operator in the country. But there were challenges as poor quality services, coverage and low penetration rates in the telecommunication system that made telecom services extremely inadequate.
The liberalization of the telecommunication sector in 1992 under the Economic Recovery Programmes also saw to the Licensing of Millicom Ghana limited, which operated under the network name Mobitel, now Tigo. Mobitel started mobile phone operation in 1993 when the mobile telephony was introduced in Ghana (Ahortor, 2003). It was the first company to start mobile phone operation in the country. That year, over 19,000 Ghanaians owned mobile phones. By 1998, the number of users had increased to 43,000 and towards 1999, users had increased to 68,000 (www.Ghana web.com, 2009).Celltel which was later changed to Kasapa also started operation in 1995. Scancom operating under the network name “Spacefon” also entered the market that same year (Ahortor, 2003).In spite of these mobile phone companies operating at the time, mobile phone usage was a preserve for the rich (Akanferi, Aziale &Asampana, 2014). The cost of handset and sim cards was expensive such that only people with a certain income level had access to the mobile phone. In less than a decade however, mobile phones have become a social tool so accessible to all manner of persons irrespective of age, educational background and economic status. Since then, there have been more mobile phone companies operating in the country. Currently, there are six mobile phone operators in the Ghanaian mobile industry. These are Airtel, Expresso, Globacom limited (GLO), Mobile Telecommunication Network (MTN), Tigo and Vodafone Ghana.
The penetration of mobile phone can be attributed to the liberalization of the telecommunication sector in Ghana. There have been more mobile phone users than fixed line. Since then, Ghana has made impressive records in telecommunication with mobile phones exceeding fixed lines by
40:1, making Ghana one of the highest numbers of mobile phone usage in Africa (Telecoms statistics, 2009). As of 2010, mobile phone coverage in Ghana stood at 74%, which makes it Africa’s largest subscription count after Nigeria (Peter Tobbin, 2008). By August 2011, mobile phone penetration rate had risen to 80.5%. Operators of mobile phone companies are taking over as providers of basic telecommunication services. This has made mobile phones very attractive to many Ghanaians who want to enjoy flexibility and ubiquity in communication (Barnes, 2002). More people use mobile phones than fixed lines these days since it is becoming the primary form of access. The mobile phone has become the most accessible and easy communication tool such that almost everybody now owns a mobile phone for one reason or the other (Akanferi et al, 2014).
According to the National Communications Authority (NCA), Ghana’s mobile phone subscriber base grew from 30,219,162 in November 2014 to 31,145,420 as of the end of March, 2015. Many people have realized the importance of using a mobile phone. This shows how far the technology has been embraced by Ghanaians and also the fact that it is becoming the first available communication gadget among Ghanaians. Both educated and illiterate alike use it for different purposes. But one interesting observation about the use of mobile phone in Ghana is among the “Kayayo”. The word Kayayoo is a local term for a head porter who cart load on their head for a negotiated fee in Accra. In Kumasi, they are referred to as “paa-o-paa” (Amoah, 2014). The term Kayayoo is both a Hausa and Ga term. Kaya is a Hausa word for load or goods and “Yoo” is a Ga term for woman (Yeboah et al., 2014). These head poters are mostly migrants from the northern part of Ghana who have come to the south due to poverty, dehumanizing socio- cultural practices and unemployment (Nabila, 1985; Anarfi et al, 2003; Awumbila et al, 2008; Tanle, 2003). They are mostly illiterate and are scattered along lorry parks and central
market places of Accra, Kumasi, Cape Coast and other places (Awumbila &Ardayfio-Schandorf, 2008; Anarfi et al 2003).