It's not about skills. It's about resources (as always)

Fernández-Ardèvol, M.  2013.  It's not about skills. It's about resources (as always). First UOC International Research Symposium. Universitat Oberta de Catalunya; 2013, Dec. 18.


We still need to achieve a better understanding on the role mobile communication plays in older people’s everyday life, particularly in developing contexts. Beyond the dichotomous classification of users/non-users, research questions respond to the interest for describing relationships older people have it: How do older people use mobile phones, if they do? Who do they communicate with it and why? What are their motivations for not using mobile phones? What are the effects (if any) of economic constraints?

By means of a qualitative approach I bring insights on the issue. I analyze a sample of 20 older individuals (60+) living in San Juan de Miraflores, a low-income district of Lima (Peru). Fieldwork was conducted in September 2013 as part of a wider case study. Main tools for information gathering were semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Conversations were voice recorded and thematic analysis was conducted.

Younger seniors who had been using mobile phones for a number of years described more autonomous and sophisticated uses, while only older participants reported being assisted users. Some participants had the mobile phone exclusively for receiving calls. In this, they followed instructions of the daughter or son who was in charge of the (costs of the) device. Others suffered discontinuities in ownership when their recycled device broke down or got lost. They would like to have a mobile phone in the future, but this was not a priority. Finally, some participants were not interested on having a mobile phone.

In conclusion, it is not only skills what shapes effective use of mobile telephony – as interest on the technology plays a role. Most importantly, resource limitations also affect use and stand out as a source of asymmetry. While asymmetry is common in low-income segments, there are specificities related to the position of older individuals within their families.

UOC Symposium 2013 website

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