Mobile phones have become widespread all over the world, including in rural and low-income communities. As research shows, these devices have the potential to bring about significant societal change – a fact acknowledged in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
But while the promising role that mobile phones and other Information and Communication Technologies could play in empowering women – particularly in Africa – has long been discussed, relatively little is known about how, when, and why this happens.
We conducted a study with women from the Nigerian city of Kano to see how they were using the mobile messaging service WhatsApp. We wanted to know whether the app had opened up opportunities and freedoms that contributed to empowering them.
Many women said that WhatsApp had allowed them to communicate better, particularly with local politicians. They felt empowered to talk about their concerns openly in WhatsApp discussion groups. And they had more access to information. Others joined religious study groups on WhatsApp, sharing questions and knowledge with other women.
Some women converted their access into opportunity. For instance, they advertised small businesses or services on WhatsApp groups, and earned money as a result.
The women in our study were able to use WhatsApp groups to push the barriers of societal norms that typecast them in gendered roles of mothers and housewives. Using this technology, they were able to become agents of their own change as well as make and exercise choices.
WhatsApp and the Women in Kano
Kano is a predominantly Muslim community. It is in Kano state, which has one of Nigeria’s highest smartphone densities – about 7.81 million of the country’s 60 million smartphone users live there.
First, we identified two women leaders in community groups to help us find participants for the study. These were selected based on how actively they were engaged in community groups. They also needed to own a smart mobile phone. We did interviews and focus groups with a diverse group of women, asking how they used WhatApp and what benefits they felt this had.
Some had become more politically empowered. Murja'atu*, a 34-year-old housewife, said:
Initially I always wondered on how to communicate with elected officers especially those of them located in Abuja. We only saw them during the election period but now this online group allows me to interact with them more frequently using the women leader as the intermediary.
Her experience was echoed by 28-year-old Safiya, a shop owner:
Our senator made some certain promises during his election campaign after some time we still had not heard from him. I posted it on the group and other members picked up on it, we kept at it till the woman leader passed on our message. Some of the issues have been addressed now.
The inexpensive and simple form of sharing information on the groups enhanced women’s ability to learn and get clarification about concepts that were unclear to them. In other cases they were able to get help with their children’s homework. This was mentioned repeatedly in the focus group session as one of the things women valued the most about being part of a WhatsApp group.
WhatsApp also proved to be a valuable source of information about health and safety. For example, 41-year-old Asabe, one of the community group leaders, shared this story:
A husband of one of our group members is a health worker, so she regularly posts information regarding health practices, during the last cholera outbreak, I learnt of it from the post she made. It includes preventive measures such as washing vegetables thoroughly, adding salt while washing and boiling water before drinking.
The focus groups participants repeatedly mentioned that WhatsApp groups made them feel like part of a community. There was a strong commitment to working together and solving problems.
The WhatsApp group forums have also enabled the women to conduct business sales by marketing their products and services. These entrepreneurs usually send photos of the products and services to prospective clients to have a precise image of what they are planning to buy. A customer is allowed to choose the method of payment and also the method of delivery.
These business women have also used WhatsApp to reach out to their customers on changes in prices. With the current economic situation in country, market prices fluctuate on a daily basis. The women use the forum as a platform where they can post and discuss changes in market prices.
The women now have greater access to customers all over Nigeria. One said:
I met a lady that lives in Yola (910 kms away from Kano) through WhatsApp and now she has become one of my most trusted and loyal customers, I send her products worth thousands of Naira and I have never met her physically before.
Postings about jobs and vacancies also formed part of the discussion in these WhatsApp groups. These jobs included household jobs, events and catering. Those who were interested usually contact the employers and interviews were arranged using WhatsApp voice and video calls.
The findings of this study show that income generation, saving opportunities, expansion of businesses were all economic capabilities that were expanded and afforded to the women by the use of mobile phones.
The use of mobile phones also led to other capabilities that covered other aspects of human development and that have different impacts on the lives of these women and their communities.
As the year ends, WhatsApp gives a farewell note to some smartphone users and it’s not a good one. WhatsApp will cease to work on devices running BlackBerry OS, BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8.0 as from December 31, 2017.
A WhatsApp blog post with the End of Life date clearly states that users of BlackBerry OS, BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8.0 and older operating systems will not be able to use the app after December 31, 2017 – not more than a week from now. To be able to recall, WhatsApp has extended support for both platforms in June this year. At that time, WhatsApp also found that the application would stop working on NokiaS40 phones will be stopped from December 31, 2018.
The application will stop working on Android 2.3.7 and older phones (Gingerbread) will be stopped from February 1, 2020. Messaging applications have become unavailable on Nokia phones running Symbian S60 since June 30, 2017.
Stopping support for Blackberry and Windows Phone did not see any additional extensions and that date will be the same.
If your phone has one of two dedicated operating systems, you should consider upgrading to a newer phone so you can properly access WhatsApp. WhatsApp updates for other versions of the operating system, such as Windows Phone 7, Android 2.1, Android 2.2, and iOS 6, were halted in 2016.
WhatsApp has officially redeemed its new standalone business application this month, which includes verified and unverified profiles. This gives businesses a formal way to do business through messaging apps.
We're usually forced to live with our mistakes in this world, but WhatsApp is now giving us a way to erase our little embarrassments.
Starting now (at least for some users), if you accidentally send a message to someone, you'll be able to delete it for everyone who can read it as long as you act within seven minutes. WhatsApp describes the process more thoroughly in an updated FAQ entry.
WhatsApp already gave the illusion of allowing this, but the truth was that only you would see the message deleted from your client.
Whoever else you sent the message to would continue seeing it until they deleted it themselves, which could be a problem if you sent the message to the wrong person or it "contains a mistake." We suspect that's likely a euphemism.
The feature is clearly labeled, too, so you'll now see an option called "delete for everyone" when you select the trash can option after holding down your thumb on the message. Whenever someone on the other end tries to read the message in the future, they'll just get a notification saying, "This message was deleted." Again, though, you'll have to act within seven minutes of sending the message for it to work.
Update and wait
You may have to wait a while to enjoy the full benefits. For one, it's a gradual rollout, so not every user has it yet. Secondly, both users must have the latest version of WhatsApp running for it to work properly. Otherwise you may hit "delete for everyone" and sadly find that everyone but you can still see it. WhatsApp won't send you a notification if this turns out to be the case.
And then, of course, there's always the chance that the recipient will see your message anyway, allowing them to screenshot your "mistakes" for everyone to see. In other words, we're glad the feature has made it to WhatsApp, but you might want to play it safe and just be better aware of what you're sending when you send a message.
Rumors about the feature first dropped last month, and we're happy to see it made it into the live build.
Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp, now owned by Facebook Inc (FB.O), will leave the messaging service company to start a new foundation, he said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
Acton spent eight years with WhatsApp, which Facebook bought in 2014 for $19 billion in cash and stock. A Stanford alumnus, Acton co-founded WhatsApp with Ukrainian immigrant Jan Koum in 2009. The duo worked at Yahoo before starting WhatsApp.
The Kenyan government is waging a war against online hate mongers with what would appear to be a zero-tolerance policy. In an unprecedented move two chat group administrators have been arrested. They were charged with sharing hate messages on WhatsApp that threatened national security and face an additional charge of spreading alarming propaganda on social media.
Like many other countries, Kenya has charged people with hate speech before. Recently in the UK, a Facebook user was charged with spreading hate messages against Muslims. Rwanda has also successfully charged various people with hate speech.
The difference in this particular case is that WhatsApp administrators have been charged. However, this is not the first time a chat group administrator has been prosecuted for hate speech. In a similar case in India, the government arrested WhatsApp administrators for offensive posts about the prime minister.
As Kenya geared up for its general election in August it was already grappling with hate speech. This reached a crescendo in the post-election period as supporters of the two opposing political groupings – the ruling Jubilee party and The National Super Alliance – engaged in digital warfare.
Fearful of a rerun of previous post election violence, police were well prepared this time.
Under Kenyan law hate speech is a criminal offence that carries a five-year jail term and a million shilling fine. One of the suspects allegedly shared a hate message that threatened to slaughter members of a certain community.
The arrests have proved controversial on two grounds.
The first is that the government has been criticised for violating the constitutional freedoms of expression and the media. The second is that the WhatsApp users felt safe because of the anonymity provided by the platform. Moreover, the Kenyan authorities have shown reluctance to prosecute hate speech cases. Earlier in the year, politicians accused of hate speech were released due to lack of evidence and the absence of asupporting legal framework.
But I believe there are grounds for a successful prosecution under Kenyan law.
What the law says
On the issue of freedom of expression, Kenya’s constitution enshrines the right to freedom of speech. But this doesn’t include allowing propaganda for war, incitement to violence, hate speech, advocacy of hatred, discrimination, ethnic incitement, vilification of others, and incitement to cause harm. This is in line with international law which protects freedom of expression, but has limitations.
During the election period thousands of Kenyans used social media to express their opinions. Many of the conversations pitted members of different ethnic communities against each other. This type of hostile communication was a spillover from the 2013 general election period when online hate speech first reared its ugly head.
This year many Kenyans retreated to the privacy of their WhatsApp groups to speak freely about their political affiliations. Again, a good number of these conversations were inflammatory. It’s understandable that Kenyan authorities felt they needed to act. But what happens next is unclear given that the law hasn’t caught up with the implications of people using various social media platforms to ventilate.
There have been a number of cases in which individuals have been charged with hate speech. And on their part, newspapers, radio stations and media enterprises can also be held criminally liable for publicising threatening, abusive or insulting material intended to stir up ethnic hatred.
The law applies to audio, visual and written hate messages, all of which are common on social media platforms. Therefore, it can be argued that Section 62 of the National Cohesion and Integration Act includes online hate speech. This would make it a crime for digital perpetrators - including those in WhatsApp groups - to spread hate through private messages.
The government has also published guidelines specifically aimed at preventing the dissemination of undesirable political text messages and social media content. According to the guidelines, WhatsApp group administrators are responsible for the content disseminated through their groups and therefore they are criminally liable for any harm that results.
I believe that these guidelines, when read together with Section 62, empower the police to arrest WhatsApp group administrators. This is because the guidelines create legal responsibilities and liabilities in the social media environment that can be applied to content service providers, including WhatsApp group administrators.
And the activities governed by the guidelines include social media use and networking, online publishing and discussion, media sharing, blogging, micro blogging, and document and data sharing. As such, even WhatsApp group members can be accused of spreading hate speech.
The impact of these rules has been that online group administrators and content creators such as bloggers must now actively monitor their members so that they are well aware of the information that is being shared on their platforms.
Therefore one will have to watch and see whether the charges will be successful or whether the Constitutional Court will be faced with a question of interpretation. The salient point of contention will be whether the WhatsApp guidelines violate the right to freedom of media and speech or if they are a necessary limitation, taking into account Kenyan’s online environment and the people’s propensity to post inflammatory or dangerous speech.
WhatsApp is giving business accounts verified green badges if their contact information checks out. So far, business verification is limited to the small number of businesses that are participating in the pilot program. If the phone number of a contact belongs to a business account, it earns a green check.
WhatsApp is also going to let you know if you’re talking to a business by showing a yellow text bubble in the chat. These texts can’t be deleted, according to WhatsApp. In general, users are able to delete messages and chats from a regular conversation, but WhatsApp seems to be forcing users to keep records of chats with a verified business.
The green badges are an effort to make businesses appear more trustworthy on the messaging app, and could encourage more businesses to get on the platform. It’s also another feature that WhatsApp’s parent company, Facebook, already incorporates on its own platform — Facebook has a gray badge for verified business pages.
The two platforms continue to grow closer in features. Last week, WhatsApp got colorful status updates that first rolled out on Facebook.
- The Verge
WhatsApp has made a u-turn on plans to withdraw their service from older devices.
They announced the move in an updated blog post, backtracking on the previous announcement that WhatsApp would no longer support devices running older versions of Android, iOS and Blackberry, as well as some Nokia phones.
The latest post suggests that BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry 10 will be supported until December 31st 2017, while support for the Nokia S40 is now offered until December 31st 2018.
Meanwhile, any Windows Phone version 8.0 or older will stop working on December 31st 2017. And Android versions 2.3.7 and older will stop being supported by February 1st 2020. However, it has been said that some features may stop working on these devices before these dates. On top of this, they will not be looking to actively develop these platforms so it is highly unlikely that users will be able to access the latest versions.
The latest update to WhatsApp includes the facility to apply filters to photos, videos and GIFs to add a bit more pizazz. There are only five options available at present, Pop, B&W, Cool, Chrome, and Film although it would seem reasonable to expect that others are in the pipeline.
WhatsApp is constantly adding new features and one of the latest features is the ability to group images into albums if multiple snaps are sent from the same contact. One final update it the facility to swipe from left-to-right in a message to compose a quick reply. This is far better than the previous option where you had to load the message in order to reply and should save valuable seconds.
Messaging and communications apps such as Line and WhatsApp will grow from five billion users in 2016 to 7.5 billion by 2020, according to new analysis by IHS.
"Mobile innovations, new business models and mobile technologies are transforming every adjacent market as the mobile industry diversifies from the maturing smartphone market," says Ian Fogg, director at IHS Technology. "Revenue for smartphones shipped in 2020 will total $355 billion."
The added that global smartphone installed base will grow from four billion in 2016, to more than six billion smartphones in use by 2020. Globally, smartphones and tablets already account for more than 60% of smart connected consumer devices – up from around 17% in 2008, the market analyst firm says, adding that smartphones and tablets make up more than 80% of connected devices in Africa and the Middle East.
"Smart mobile devices will rapidly become universally adopted throughout the world, enabling innovative smart services, which will transform emerging economies," Fogg notes. "Mobile devices and services are now the hub for people's entertainment and business lives, as well as for communication. The smartphone has replaced the PC as the most important smart connected device."
IHS says global consumer spending on mobile apps is set to reach $74 billion by 2020 up from $54 billion in 2016. It believes Africa, the Middle East and Latin America will be the fastest-growing regions for mobile app spend. Africa and the Middle East will grow at an average rate of 18% each year to 2020.
"Latin America will see an average growth rate of 23% compared with the global 8% average annual rate," says Jack Kent, director at IHS Technology. "Africa, the Middle East and Latin America will be the fastest-growing regions in the next four years. There are many opportunities for new apps, mobile payments and mobile money services. Asia, notably, will continue to play the number one role in the global apps market – accounting for more than 50% of consumers' spending."
There were more than 120 million active mobile money accounts in emerging markets in 2016, according to the IHS Technology analysis. It points out that the number of addressable smartphones for device-based payment services will increase from 2.7 billion in 2016 to more than five billion by 2020.
"Mobile payments and commerce are central to mobile innovation and will be critical for future growth," Kent says. "Mobile money services have been a vital tool for financial inclusion in emerging markets, but elsewhere, mobile money services are looking to complement or disrupt traditional payments and financial services through the launch of app-only banking services, device-based payments from services such as Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, and payment integration via social media and messaging apps."
Kent adds that in 2017, leading technology players will focus on the integration of payments and commerce as part of their wider mobile platforms and technology ecosystems. "This integration across their range of devices, apps, content and services will be crucial if they want to tap into the next waves of growth." IHS says messaging apps offering free or low-cost communications have disrupted traditional telecom business models and their transition into providing wider service, commerce and device platforms threatens further disruption.
Over-the-top messaging and communications apps such as Line and WhatsApp boasted an aggregate audience of more than five billion active user accounts at the end of 2016. This will grow to almost 7.5 billion by 2020. The firm says Africa and the Middle East will be the fastest-growing region at an average rate of 10% to 2020, ahead of the global average 8% rate.