Reliability of self-reported mobile phone ownership in rural north-central Nigeria: Cross-sectional study

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BACKGROUND mHealth practitioners seek to leverage the ubiquity of the mobile phone to increase the impact and robustness of their interventions, particularly in resource-limited settings. However, data on the reliability of self-reported mobile phone access is minimal. OBJECTIVE We sought to ascertain the reliability of self-reported ownership of and access to mobile phones among a population of rural dwellers in north-central Nigeria. METHODS We contacted participants in a community-based HIV testing program by phone to determine actual as opposed to self-reported mobile phone access. A phone script was designed to conduct these calls and descriptive analyses conducted on the findings. RESULTS We dialed 349 numbers: 110 (31.5%) were answered by participants who self-reported ownership of the mobile phone; 123 (35.2%) of the phone numbers did not ring at all; 28 (8.0%) rang but were not answered; and 88 (25.2%) were answered by someone other than the participant. We reached a higher proportion of male participants (68/133, 51.1%) than female participants (42/216, 19.4%; P<.001). CONCLUSIONS Self-reported access to mobile phones in rural and low-income areas in north-central Nigeria is higher than actual access. This has implications for mHealth programming, particularly for women's health. mHealth program implementers and researchers need to be cognizant of the low reliability of self-reported mobile phone access. These observations should therefore affect sample-size calculations and, where possible, alternative means of reaching research participants and program beneficiaries should be established.




Menson, W. N. A., Olawepo, J. O., Bruno, T., Gbadamosi, S. O., Nalda, N. F., Anyebe, V., … Ezeanolue, E. E. (2018). Reliability of self-reported mobile phone ownership in rural north-central Nigeria: Cross-sectional study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(3).

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