Preliminary Survey of Communication Practices

In 2008 we conducted a survey of communication practices, including mobile phone and computer use, among 58 workers at 5 of IDEPSCA’s day laborer centers. The findings presented below aided the initital development of the project by describing day laborer’s existing usage patterns and their ideas on how mobile phones can be useful tools.

Mobile Phone Use

  • 78% of the workers currently own a mobile phone.
  • When asked how many times a day they use their phone, 36% reported using it between 5 to 10 times day, 31% reported 1 to 5 times a day and 25% reported more than 10 times. Only 3 workers reported using their phone less than once a day.
  • Workers reported using their phones for: family – 82%; friends – 73%; work – 98%; emergencies – 49%
  • When asked what they use their mobile phones for the most, 71% answered work.
  • 76% of the workers said they use their mobile phones to call abroad to the following countries: Mexico (19); Guatemala (9); El Salvador (1); Honduras (1); Peru (1)

Types of Phones and Plans

  • While details of each type of phone vary, the following manufacturers are represented: Boost Mobile/Motorola (9); Motorola (10); Kyocera/Qualcomm (2); LG (6); Nokia (3); Samsung (7); Sony Ericsson (1); Sanyo (2)
  • 17 workers described their phone plan as “pre-paid” – the following pre-paid services were mentioned: Page Plus, Tuyo Mobile, Metro PCS, AT&T and calling cards.
  • Plans varied from $20 to $180 per month.
  • Only 4 workers mentioned that their phone plan included text messages.
  • Most workers (25) pay less than $50/month for their phone plans (pre-paid and contract); 9 workers pay between $50 to $60; and 6 pay more than $60 per month.
  • When asked if they liked their phone plans and features, most workers (52%) said they were happy with their phones/plans, but that they would like additional features if they weren’t so expensive. These features include: internet, camera & video, walkie-talkie, GPS and texts.
  • 5 workers mentioned that they did not like their plan because it is too expensive.
  • 2 workers mentioned that they like their phones but would like to learn about what features it has and what is included in their plan.
  • When asked if they had other phones/plans in the past and why they switched, most workers mentioned that they previously had pre-paid plans and kept running out of minutes too quickly.
  • Many also mentioned that they had Sprint in the past and had many problems with overcharges and unexpected rate changes.

Usage of Phone Features

  • Push-to-talk (walkie-talkie): 70% of the workers do not have P2T capacity; of those who do have it only 3 use it
  • Texts: 31% send texts, 50% receive texts
  • Photos: 47% take photos and 24% do not have cameras on their phones
  • Videos: 20% take videos, 33% do not have video recorders on their phones
  • 9 workers mentioned using the “missed calls” feature
  • Workers were asked if they used specific features on their phones: calendar – 65%; alarm – 51%; calculator – 47%

Workers Without Mobile Phones

  • Those who do not have a mobile phone were asked why and 20% said due costs. Other answers included: already have a home phone, phone was stolen, and poor quality of affordable phones.
  • Of the 13 workers who do not have a mobile phone, only 3 have never had a phone before.
  • Public phones, home phones, friend’s cell phones and center phones were mentioned as a way to make phone calls.
  • Workers were asked if they have ever used mobile phones for the following:
  • o    make phone calls: 83%
  • o    push-to-talk (walkie-talkie): 17%
  • o    Texts: 39% send texts, 27% receive texts
  • o    Photos: 39% take photos, 39% send photos, 27% receive photos
  • o    Videos: 17% take videos, 17% send videos, 17% receive videos

Computer Use

  • Half of the workers (29) have never used a computer.
  • 94% said they would like to learn how to use a computer.
  • 23% currently own a computer.
  • When asked if they had access to a computer, only 12 said no. The following were mentioned as places where a computer could be accessed: library (9); the center (8); home (5); cyber café (3); friend’s house (2)
  • Workers were asked what kinds of activities they do on the computer:
    o    Internet: 81%
    o    email: 47%
    o    instant messenger: 31%
    o    webcam: 22%
    o    word processor: 19%
  • Other activities mentioned included music, uploading photos, shopping (ebay), games, homework, Lotus, news, and budgeting on excel.

Additional Notes

  • Even though there may be access to computers at cyber cafes or the library, they are mostly in English only, which makes it difficult to use them. One worker described how he bought a computer for his kids and would like to use it himself but finds it difficult because everything is in English.
  • One worker mentioned that he took photos during the May 1 marches, but he is not sure how to get them off his phone or what he could do with them now. Another worker also described how he takes photos but doesn’t know how to send them through text (he didn’t know about picture messages).
  • There is a concern for how much it would cost to send picture messages and if it would cost more than a regular text message.
  • One worker mentioned that he takes photos of completed jobs while another described how he took photos of broken toilets or plumbing problems to show it to the repairman.
  • Another worker said that he would like to figure out how to get the photos off his phone so that he could clear up memory to take more photos. He becomes frustrated when he reaches the memory limit because he then has to delete photos that he would like to keep.
  • Many workers mentioned that they would like to send photos to their family back home and receive photos of their family on their phone.
  • A few workers mentioned that they still have not set up their voicemail system because they don’t understand how to do so.
  • One worker expressed interest in learning how to download music from his computer to his mobile phone. He has capacity for music on his phone but doesn’t know how to get music.
  • Many workers mention that they would like to have additional features on their phones but without extra costs. One worker in particular expressed the desire to send emails from his phone to his family back home so that he can always be connected to them in case something comes up.

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