Effects of Mobile Phone Use on Household Travel Behavior in Kumasi, Ghana




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This research addressed how the use of mobile phone affects travel behavior in a developing country context – Kumasi, Ghana – in light of the growing interest in research that seek to understand the relationship between telecommunication and transportation, which until now has been confined to countries that have experienced gradual evolution of the use of technology as they developed. Using mixed methods research, two studies were conducted to examine the relationship between the variables of interest and to identify the mechanisms that underlie the relationship. In the first phase of the study, 661 adults completed a cross-sectional survey to investigate primarily the nature of the relationship between mobile phone use and travel (e.g., substitution, complementary, neutral). Using structural equation modeling, results from the survey showed a positive relationship between the main study variables, that is, participants who used the mobile phone more often and for more applications tended to travel more. This relationship was mirrored in an extension of the model where several demographic measures, including age, gender, educational level, family type, vehicle ownership, income, and location, were considered. In the follow-up interviews it was discovered that the participants believed the effect of mobile phone use on travel to be substitutionary, thus contradicting the conclusion from the survey analysis. The qualitative study was conducted as a sub-sample of the larger household survey, to dig deeper into the causal mechanisms by which mobile phone affected travel behavior. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 24 participants who had participated in the quantitative study and selected using a criterion sampling. The evidence from the qualitative interviews pointed to the fact that, although few participants felt their travel had enhanced, generally, mobile phone use had led to a reduction in the amount of travel participants made in their day-to-day activities, therefore serving as a substitute. These results showed that, clearly, there was a conflict between what people did as in the quantitative survey and what they believed was happening. Possible explanations of this occurrence and its implications to mixed methods research are discussed in the conclusion chapter of the dissertation. Also, from the interviews, barriers including the nature of ones business, poor infrastructure and service delivery, insecurity and mistrust, as well as poor network connection and reliability, were found to inhibit the full utilization of the more advanced applications of mobile phone by the participants. These barriers also provided some explanation into the results from the quantitative phase. Although the divergence in the results from both methods do not provide the basis for clear conclusions, the preponderance of evidence from the study tends to support the complementary thesis rather than the substitution thesis. To the extent that findings from the qualitative data have provided a behavioral understanding of the results from the quantitative data, the study has provided a comprehensive view of the relationship between telecommunication and transportation, thus addressing the limitations of the vast majority of previous studies. To leverage on the complementarity relationship in Ghana, several policy recommendations are addressed in the conclusion chapter of the dissertation.



Telecommunication—Kumasi (Ghana), Transportation—Kumasi (Ghana), Cell phones—Kumasi (Ghana), Developing countries