“Here you can use it”: Understanding mobile phone sharing and the concerns it elicits in rural Kenya

Leah Komen

Abstract


Globally, mobile phones are mostly used as personal items largely due to their data storage and services provision. However, various features enable mobile phone sharing and this subverts the notion of a single individual use. In cultures where communal sharing is valued and seen as normal, it is natural for mobile phones to be incorporated into other traditionally shared support systems, such as meetings summoned by elders, which involve social, economic, cultural and political activities. This paper draws on a recent doctoral thesis to examine the role of mobile telephony in the social transformation and development of Marakwet, a sub-ethnic group of the Kalenjin community in the Rift Valley region of western Kenya. The paper argues that the adoption and domestication of mobile telephony is both innovative and a source of problems for the Marakwet, depending on how the device is used in everyday life. The paper shows that while mobile phone sharing amongst the Marakwet is the most preferred practice, privacy and data security are key concerns among users.

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ISSN 2398-0532