What’s the True Value of a Cell Phone?


My name is Jonah Abraham, and I’m a sophomore at the College. This summer, I’ll be traveling to Tanzania to do my project, currently laboring under the clunky working title “What’s the True Value of a Cell Phone?” (If you have a snappier title, let me know in the comments!) In any case, I’ll be there for around seven weeks, living in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam. I’m working with three others students from W&M, and together we are all working on various aspects of Professor Roessler’s research.

My particular project examines the impact of cell phone ownership on women’s empowerment. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, I am trying to figure out how much women value cell phone ownership. Cell phones can open up new horizons for women in rural areas; they communicate with their friends, keep up with current events, and even manage their finances via mobile money programs. However, nobody exactly sure what sort of premium women place on actually having a mobile device.

At its core, my project is quite simple. As part of Professor Roessler’s research, we will be distributing phones to hundreds of women in rural Tanzania. I will be running a “cash-for-phones” project – I will determine how much women demandĀ over the base price of the cell phone. I will also be running the test in reverse: are women willing to pay a premium to receive a cell phone?

The above abstract sums up my plans in Tanzania. I believe that NGOs and governments who make it a priority to distribute cell phones will be interested in my research, since it would be very helpful to know how much women value what they are receiving.