Mhealth and Maternal Care: A Winning Combination for Healthcare in the Developing World ?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Marine AL DAHDAH, Paris Descartes University (CEPED, UPD-IRD), France, CSH-Delhi, India
The recent multiplication of mHealth worldwide illustrates the overall trend towards the globalization and technologization of biomedicine. The widespread idea that digital technologies improve the quality of care, reduce health disparities and optimize health systems takes shape in a diverse set of technical devices : eHealth, telemedicine, or mHealth. Yet, very little research has been conducted on the use of mobile phone and wireless technology within health programs in the global South, or in development contexts. This new wave of mobile technology applied to health in developing countries thus raises complex issues in terms of economic organization, governance, and control. Especially when millions of dollars are being invested in mHealth projects in countries where poor health systems are failing to meet the needs of the population and where the lack of legal framework may leave the door open to experiments. It calls for sociological questioning on the implementation in developing countries of projects that are sometimes entirely designed and funded by developed countries. These mobile technologies also point out important issues in terms of data safety, confidentiality and "privacy" in the context of collection and analysis of health data that is “globalized”. They also highlight the dynamics of how foreign ethical and financial practices adapt – or not - to local economic and political contexts, customs and traditions, health organizations and health professionals. This communication aims to explore how mobile connectivity gives raise to new forms of power, of control and friction through the study of a particular maternal mHealth project deployed in Ghana and India.  We propose to focus more specifically on North-South relationships involved by those programs. We will also analyze the gender issues at stake in those specific maternal mHealth programs.