The Use of ICTs in Projects for Sustainable Povery Reduction in Ghana and Mauritius

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Thematic Focus:
Poverty Reduction
Involved Countries:
Switzerland, Ghana, Mauritius

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How does the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), especially mobile phones and internet, increase access to economic, educational and health resources in Ghana and in Mauritius? How can the use of ICTs reduce poverty and contribute to development? These are the main research questions to be answered by the joint research partnership of Ghana and Mauritius.

The research builds on the capability approach of Sen (1999) to poverty adopted in ”Poor Economics” (Banerjee, & Duflo, 2012), which presupposes that people defined as poor often lack relevant information. Access to information increases social capital.

As field of investigation and implementation, we have chosen the State Program “Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty” (LEAP) in Ghana, whereas in Mauritius, the focus lies on the State Housing Program for Poverty Reduction. In both state programs, the state recognizes mostly with women as caregivers (in Ghana) or as household heads (in Mauritius). In both countries, the use of mobile phones and ICTs is increasing rapidly.

Their functions can briefly be defined as serving to gather, process, disseminate information and support communication for different functions (Batchelor & Scott, 2005; Kleine 2013). The research starts with the presupposition that ICTs enhance access to information and consequently the well being of people. Especially mobile phones are often used for communication and information in daily economic affairs (Frei 2013; Sife etal., 2010; Wolfenden et al., 2009), as development in sub-Saharan Africa shows.

According to an action research design, the overall project encompasses three steps. Within this, each research team applies the same methodology allowing for comparison and exchange.

The three steps are:

1) a mutualunderstanding of the conceptual framework in Ghana and Mauritius about the roles ICTs plays in social practiceand social projects, their modes and meanings;

2) study of the selected neighborhoods and households, andempowerment strategies of the beneficiaries in order to achieve a clear understanding of how the beneficiariesinvolved in the projects make use of ICTs, how this affects their lives and how this enhances the chances ofalleviating poverty;

3) starting from best practices and adapting, developing or creating and testing as output, in

collaboration with computer technology, new internet or mobile tools, new ways of using them for the chosenprojects. The first and most important outcome is the pathway to new ICTs application strategies in the struggleagainst poverty. The second outcome is the knowledge about social practice of ICTs. The third outcome is theincreased mutual knowledge and synergy on ICT practice and its possible application in Higher Education andSocial Institutions in Ghana and Mauritius.

Within this general project framework (cf. project kick-start application 32, May 2015), the research team convened for a joint pilot phase of the project (cf. workshop report kick-start application 32, September 2015),consisting of two focus-group discussions with the beneficiaries in each poverty reduction program in Ghana and Mauritius. Special attention is put on the beneficiary groups, the caregivers or the household heads, with whom the focus group discussions will be conducted. . The caregivers and the household heads are mainly women. Considering this, the main research question for the two focus group discussions is adapted: How do female caregivers and household heads, use mobile phones and ICTs? The focus group discussions also answers the following question: Beyond the current social use of these ICTs, what do they need in terms of knowledge, applications, software, hardware for a broader implication in the poverty reduction program?

The results of this investigation will be presented at the Symposium of the Joint World Conference of Social Work, Education and Development in Seoul in June 2016 under the Title “ICTs against poverty – an opportunity to come out of poverty?”

Barbara Waldis, School of Social Work, Applied University, Western Switzerland
Mavis Dako-Gyeke, Department of Social Work, University of Ghana