Objective The primary aim of this study was to portray the level of spread and the dynamic of diffusion of mobile phone technology in sub-Saharan Africa during the last two decades. The secondary aim was to investigate factors related to the use of mobile phone technology in sub-Saharan Africa and to derive profiles of the most suitable areas to conduct mobile phone technology-based research.
Methods The present work was based on the data collected by the World Bank database; a collection of public access data derived from yearly surveys conducted at country level. Two methods were applied to perform the selection of variables related to the diffusion of mobile phones in sub-Saharan Africa. Firstly, a Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator (LASSO) regression was applied. Afterwards, a system of simultaneous equation was applied to estimate the model coefficients and determine the joint statistical significance.
Results The number of mobile phones subscriptions in relation to the population of sub-Saharan Africa has increased consistently during the period 2000 to 2010. The rate of mobile phones subscriptions in relation to the population ranged between less than 1% to more than 90%. Urban areas and having a lower number of people leaving in slums seems to be the most suitable places to conduct mobile phone-based interviews. This information is useful in identifying countries and macro areas to conduct mobile phone interviews; and this could be extended to smallest area within a country.
Discussion More effort is required to better understand how to identify areas suitable for conducting research using mobile phones and other electronic-based tools. Such an effort should be based on individual level surveys to understand not only the material possibility but also the will to participate to research based on data capturing made by mobile phones and similar tools.
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