Gender, Mobile, and Mobile Internet| Kenyan Women’s Rural Realities, Mobile Internet Access, and “Africa Rising”

Susan Wyche, Jennifer Olson


The term “Africa Rising” is used in popular and academic discourse to describe economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa. Increased mobile phone ownership and access to the Internet figure prominently in this optimistic narrative. However, aspects of this story are being questioned, in particular whether this economic growth benefits Africa’s rural areas. In this article, we extend this critique to the optimism surrounding access to the mobile Internet by detailing rural women’s experiences with mobile devices. Drawing on data from our long-term fieldwork in Western Kenya, we describe how secondhand handsets, misinformation about social media, and gendered allocations of time constrain women’s access to the mobile Internet. We then discuss how the materiality of mobile phones, seasonal changes, and other factors must be considered when developing technological interventions in rural areas. We conclude that rural women’s lived realities merit more attention within growth narratives about Africa.


HCI4D, Internet, Kenya, mobile phones, rural, social media, women

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