Mobile phones use by urban refugees in South Africa: Opportunities and challenges

Bisimwa, Kasky
Brown, Irwin
Johnston, Kevin
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The utilization of mobile phones is increasingly seen as a crucial means of reducing inequalities and ensuring people’s inclusion in society. Yet, an understanding of the factors affecting the use of mobile phones remains inadequate. Drawing from Sen’s capability approach and Bourdieu’s theory of practice, the findings suggest that mobile phone use affords valuable capabilities to the users. However, the generation of these capabilities is contingent on power relations in the social field - between social structures and individual’s agency. In South Africa, the capabilities of empowerment that urban refugees can generate through mobile phone use are either enhanced or hindered by interrelated factors, namely the affordances of mobile phones, socio-environmental factors, and personal factors. This paper contributes to the theory in the field of Information Systems by proposing a dynamic framework with precise constructs for theorizing and explaining the mechanisms and social practices that shape mobile phone use and the capabilities for empowerment.
Social Media: Culture, Identity, and Inclusion, Capability approach, Bourdieu's Theory of practice, Empowerment, Mobile phone, Refugee
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