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IDIA2014 Conference
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
3-4 November 2014

Claims of mobile phone use by Kerala fishermen not supported by fieldwork

Jacques Steyn
Monash South Africa

Mohan Das
Monash South Africa

Full paper


Fieldwork was conducted in the fisheries industry of Kerala, a state in India. The purpose of the fieldwork was to investigate the claim, originally made by Robert Jensen (2007), that mobile phones are used to determine market prices and fishermen sell their fish at the best market. Informal interviews were held with different stakeholders in the fisheries industry: fishermen, boat owners, auctioneers, bidders, vendors, religious representatives and government representatives. Fourteen different fish markets and landing centers were visited on both the south and north coasts of Kerala. Both informal as well as more formal markets were visited. Based on the findings of this fieldwork and supporting ethnographic case study, we found very little evidence for the claim that fishermen use mobile phones to determine market prices and locations or sell their fish at markets other than at their home centers. We conclude that research into the use of mobile phones need to consider the bigger picture within which technology as social construct operates to prevent premature claims. No single model, as Jensen proposed, can be applied across all fish landing centres in Kerala, and certainly that model cannot be generalised to apply across the globe.

Key words

ICT4D, mobile phones, Kerala fisheries, Robert Jensen, ethnography