Voices from the last mile: The place of emotions in the social impact analysis of access to communication


While cellular technology has become ubiquitous and effective in bridging the digital divide, billions of households around the world remain unconnected and unserved. Increasing income and effective participation in governance are the gold standard in establishing the positive social impact of innovations that seek to provide access to communication in last mile areas, which are usually geographically isolated rural villages. Results from the social impact analysis of the Village Base Station Project (VBTS), using culturally-sensitive oral history, reveal that end-users use emotional terms, such as ginhawa and perhuwisyo in assessing how access to cellular networks affected their everyday life and social relationships. This article contributes to the scholarly discussions on the social impact of cellular technology by understanding end-users’ emotional responses as indicators of social impact. We argue that a more human-centered framework for social impact assessment requires a careful consideration of emotional evaluative statements from silenced communities, or of voices from the last mile.