Lines Across the Desert: Mobile phone use and mobility in the context of trans-Saharan migration
Title: Lines Across the Desert: Mobile phone use and mobility in the context of trans-Saharan migration
Author: SCHAUB, Max Leonard
Citation: Information Technology for Development, 2012, 18, 2, 126–144
ISSN: 0268-1102; 1554-0170
In West and Northern Africa, mobile phone coverage has been expanding parallely to increased attempts by Africans to migrate overland to Europe. This paper explores possible links between the two phenomena, looking specifically into the role of mobile phones in trans-Saharan migration. It provides a first detailed description of the telecommunication processes underlying contemporary trans-Saharan migration. An analytical framework is presented that helps to explain how mobile phones facilitate migration by interacting with the social and spatial factors shaping migrants’ mobility. By drawing on this framework and fieldwork conducted among Congolese migrants in Morocco, it is shown that the expansion of the communication infrastructure is, on the one hand, only one of several factors that have turned the region into a more “transitable” space. On the other hand, the use of mobile phones is demonstrated to be central to the migration process: migrants draw on the unprecedented accessibility of contacts equipped with mobile phones to tie together novel, geographically expansive networks. Phones are also shown to be used by migrants’ “helpers” for the purpose of internal coordination.
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