Mobile ‘phones and rural health workers in Peru: The Potential of m-Health in isolated rural areas of Peru

David Crespo

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis


This thesis explores the application of mobile technologies for health in rural areas in developing countries, so as to provide reflections about the potential of the nascent m-health field. The growth in the spread of mobile ‘phones in developing countries over the last decade has attracted considerable attention in the ICT4D literature, much of which is focused on the application of mobile ‘phones for health delivery. Nevertheless, publications about the application of mobile ‘phones for health focused in rural areas of developing countries are still scarce, and certain gaps, such as the scalability and the sustainability of the programmes, are quite common among the m-health initiatives launched.

The thesis sheds light on the gaps in the literature through a case study in two
contrasting rural regions of Peru, but is not limited to this specific context and provides wider reflections on current topics of discussion in the m-health field. A qualitative approach was used, including a combination of methods both in traditional face-to-face and in online settings, including interviews, observation and surveys. Important methodological complexities arose during the research, particularly those related to the application of online methods, and the thesis therefore also provides relevant commentary on such research through the experience gained. These methodological reflections are considered themselves to be substantial findings of the research.

The research highlights three important advantages provided by mobile ‘phones for health in isolated areas: the value of the immediacy in the communication for emergencies, the potential of multimedia capabilities of mobile handsets, as well as the improved reliability of this technology compared with previous ones. However, it also reflects on the recent limitations for their adoption and use in isolated communities, providing realistic considerations about the constraints of this potential for the poorest groups. Furthermore, the thesis shows how the most relevant benefits of mobile telephony for health in developing countries are derived from the ‘natural’ use of the technology among the population, particularly for communicating during emergencies rather than through externally conceptualised and driven m-health programmes. It concludes that the promotion of universal access to mobile telephony in rural areas is the most impactful measure to improve health conditions in those areas. It also concludes, though, that the different m-health categories have great potential in order to improve the working conditions of health workers in rural areas of developing countries, whenever mobile ‘phones are available and affordable.
Original languageEnglish
Print ISBNs978-3-8454-3634-0
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • m-health
  • mobile health
  • Mobile
  • Peru

Cite this