The TGRG and Developing Areas Research Group (DARG) jointly hosted a three-part session at the RGS-IBG annual conference on mobilities and livelihoods in low income country urban contexts. While this is the first collaborative session between these two research groups, at least in recent years, the wide-ranging discussion generated by the 13 papers presented indicates the value of bringing together researchers whose approach and prime focus may differ, but whose common concern is to understand and contribute towards improving the lives of marginalised residents of rapidly developing urban areas. This write-up, by TGRG chair Karen Lucas, provides detail on each of the 13 talks.
Two panel sessions exploring the growing linkages between travel/transport organisation and mobile phones in Africa were held at the African Studies Association biennial conference at Sussex University in September 2014, organised and chaired by Gina Porter from Durham University and sponsored by the DFID-funded Africa Community Access Programme.
The remarkable expansion of mobile phone networks in Africa is bringing a tangible new dimension of connectivity into transport and access equations on the ground: now-feasible interactions between virtual and physical mobility are helping to reshape access potential, even in many hitherto remote areas (especially where linked to the rapid uptake of transportation modes such as the motorcycle-taxi). Phones can cut travel costs and time, reducing the number of long, potentially hazardous road journeys on poor roads in badly maintained vehicles, in regions with among the world’s highest accident rates and where highway robbery and other types of harassment associated with travel may be widespread. Better distance management through phone use may be particularly closely associated with populations with very low disposable incomes, and/or whose physical mobility is limited, for instance by disability, infirmity, age or gender. A write-up of these sessions, by Gina, who will give the keynote Hoyle Lecture speech at next year’s RGS-IBG conference, follow.
It is well-known that mobile phones are having a large impact on people’s lives across the world in many, often subtle, ways. No where is this more pronounced than in Africa, where the sudden availability of mobiles is providing people access to communications for the first time.
One under-studied yet crucial impact is on transport. The following video and audio posts, taken with permission at a TGRG session during the RGS-IBG conference last week, illustrate the various impacts and dispose of the simplistic notion that mobiles simply reduce trips. Overall, they make transport more efficient, as explained by Imogen Bellwood-Howard: