Project Year



West Africa



Project Description

Though the proliferation of mobile technology is enabling more and more people to have access to a variety of services, uptake of these services is still low in rural communities. Various reasons account for this but the role of the ancestors has not been taken into consideration. Research studies have described the socio-demographic profile of mobile technology users and established the factors that limit the widespread utilization of mobile technology. These include cost of mobile phone handsets, poor network coverage, cost of recharge cards, low literacy, and high cost of maintenance. Little work has been directed at researching the implications of ancestral worship in mobile technology programmes. The focus of this study therefore is to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of influence that the ancestors exert in the decision to use or not to use mobile technology in an isolated community in northern Ghana. Through divination a cross section of the ancestors will be interviewed using lineage heads who are well versed in the art of soothsaying. Questions will be addressed to the spiritual object operated by the diviner through the lineage head who will then interpret the signs made by the spiritual object to the client. Pairs of lineage heads and ancestral interviews will then be triangulated with the key informant interviews to determine the role of ancestral worship in community decision making. Like any tool, the success of an ICT-based solution is dependent on the people and processes that support its use. Individuals employ soothsayers for contacting ancestral spirits to explain the past, interpret the present, and forecast future events. Considering, therefore, that mobile technology has a great potential to help communities address specific communication challenges and reduce poverty, it is important to know if the ancestors support the use of mobile technology. This information will support evidence-based marketing strategies that will enable communities have easy access to mobile technology and foster its widespread utilisation.


Francis Niagia Santuah, Dennis Chirawurah, and Martin Alichimah

About the Researcher(s)

SantuahFrancis Niagia Santuah is a Communication Scientist with 20 years of experience in implementation research and social mobilization for behaviour change. He has conducted multi-country research studies in sub-Saharan Africa, and has led the start-up and scale-up of innovative programmes in health, education, and governance in the West Africa subregion. He is currently the Deputy Regional Director for the West Africa Resilience Innovation Lab (RILab) at the University for Development Studies in Tamale, Ghana. He manages a multi-disciplinary faculty team in Ghana, Mali, and Senegal and leads internal and external stakeholder engagements to facilitate the operationalization of the program’s resilience and innovations strategies. He is adept at writing, editing, reviewing, and translating journalistic, technical, and scientific documents, and has published widely in local and international scientific and development journals. His most recent research study was in February 2014 where he led a team of consultants to conduct an assessment of the impact of HIV/AIDS in the ports of Cotonou in Benin and Douala in Cameroon.

ChirawurahDennis Chirawurah is a Community Development and Training specialist with an over twenty year career in education, first teaching at the basic level and over the past ten years at the University for Development Studies where he teaches courses in Community Development and Change and Health and Development in addition to preparing both undergraduate and graduate students for community-based immersion and field practical training. He is a Fellow of the Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy at Tulane University and leveraged his new knowledge in the field of disaster resilience leadership to engage in a broader national and regional effort towards building resilient communities. He currently directs the West Africa Resilience Innovation Lab located at UDS, Tamale, as part of the Higher Education Solutions Network.

AlichimahMartin Alichimah is an Assistant Director of Education with a MPhil in Applied Linguistics at the St. John Bosco’s College of Education in Navrongo. He has a teaching career spanning almost two decades at various levels within the Ghana education system. He is a curriculum development, linguistics, and local language translation expert with specialization in the Kasem language and a working knowledge of Buli. He has led many community mobilization efforts and has been instrumental in the conception and implementation of complementary basic education initiatives in the Navrongo Municipality and the Kassena-Nankana West District of the Upper-East region. He is currently the Executive Director of Roots and Futures, a community-based development organisation collaborating to conduct this study.


Link to Francis Santuah's blog post: One Option, Divided Opinion


© UC Irvine School of Social Sciences - 3151 Social Sciences Plaza, Irvine, CA 92697-5100 - 949.824.2766