Tanzanian fishermen have benefited a great deal from the use of mobile phones in doing business with local communities.
A study conducted by two students from Upsalla University, Sweden, in collaboration with the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT), has concluded that the use of mobile phones has improved the livelihood of the fishermen who had hitherto no reliable means of communication.
The two students, Jonas Myhr and Lars Nordstrom, presented their findings at the ongoing 5th International Conference in Open Access, being held in the Tanzanian town of Bagamoyo.
According to the study, the fishermen, used to spending long hours away from family and friends now find it easier to stay in touch as they venture into the sea.
Those still at home can now call colleagues already in the sea to find out about the weather and the tidal movements. The researchers say that the fishermen no longer rely on the weather forecast by the Meteorological Department which in most cases is inaccurate.
The fisherfolk also communicate with one another, giving tips on where to get the best catch.
Mobile phones also come in handy during cases of emergency.
Fishermen caught in the middle of a storm will no longer scream to call for help, which does not help in most cases. But now fishermen can simply dial the emergency numbers on their cell phones or simply call their friends.
Most of all, fishermen are now using mobile phones to gather market information and co-ordinate pickup for their catch, known to be a highly perishable commodity.
Customers willing to buy fish simply call the fishermen to place their orders. With this empowerment, the supply chain has now improved.
But it has not been smooth sailing either. Loss of a phone consequently means loss of business.
The researchers also suggest that number portability, which allows subscribers to retain their phone numbers across the networks, could alleviate this problem.
Most of the fisherfolk are also still unbanked, and hence the need for more affordable banking services to protect them against unfavourable conditions.