The fast spread of mobile phones across low-income countries such as India can make it easier for users to access healthcare but also harder for poorer people in rural areas without the phones, new research at the University of Oxford has suggested.
Published in the latest issue of World Development, the study by Marco J Haenssgen at the CABDyN Complexity Centre and the Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health at Oxford analysed publicly available data from more than 12,000 households in rural India with sick family members in 2005 and 2012.
The study suggested that healthcare services expect more people to use a mobile phone, and that mobile phone users are more assertive when they compete for access to the few doctors and nurses in rural India, a university statement said.
In areas where mobile phones become more common, people left behind have more difficulty accessing healthcare services, said the study titled “The struggle for digital inclusion: phone, healthcare, and marginalisation in rural India”.
Haenessgen said: “Because of their fast spread globally, mobile phones are often seen as a blessing for development, especially in low- and middle-income countries. This perception is particularly true when it comes to healthcare provision for the rural poor.”
The study notes that according to GSMA - the trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide - mobile technology can increase the quality, reduce the cost and extend the reach of healthcare to benefit millions.