Ethnographic Research

The AppLab seeks to deeply understand the needs of poor people in rural areas around the world and build innovative applications delivered over mobile devices tailored to their needs. The AppLab's ethnographic research in Uganda focused on rural livelihoods and existing mobile phone uses and serves as the foundation for developing locally relevant mobile applications tailored to the needs of the poor.

The research explored rural livelihood and income generating strategies, mobile phone uses, information needs and opportunities, and financial flows. It also addressed the suitability of different information delivery methods such as SMS and voice.

The study found that rural Ugandans:
  • Demand information that is dependable, actionable, and accurate
  • Use mobile phones to reduce the cost of transportation and other transaction costs associated with trade
  • Have a high level of personal mobile phone ownership
  • Understand the utility of owning and using a mobile phone
  • Understand information in terms of advice and expect this advice to come from a human source
  • Are already using mobile phones to facilitate financial flows, using the transfer of air-time as a virtual currency
To learn more about our findings read Jenna Burrell's report, "Livelihoods and the mobile phone in rural Uganda."