Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Media Studies


Dr. Sandra Smeltzer


This thesis offers an examination of the complex opportunities and challenges that characterize the development of innovative, locally appropriate, sustainable, and scalable uses of mobile phones as instruments to support and advance HIV/AIDS work in sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing together the fields of ICT4D and health communication, this thesis establishes a theoretical framework for mobile health (mHealth) interventions in developing countries from a critical media studies perspective. It interrogates the varied applications of mobile phones vis-à-vis health that have been identified, promoted, or piloted in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere in the Global South, focusing on the potential for mobile phones to enhance two interrelated aspects of HIV/AIDS work: 1) scaling-up prevention and awareness programs; and 2) enhancing access to treatment, care, and support for people living with HIV. By critically examining real-life applications, focusing in particular on a case study from South Africa (the pioneering mHealth organization Cell-Life), this thesis explores both the opportunities presented by the increasing ubiquity of mobile phones in this region, and the corresponding challenges, limitations, and critical issues that inhibit effective realization of mHealth’s potential in this context.