Mobile Internet and Cell Phone Usage in South Africa

Generation Mobile

Growing mobile access to media and the Internet is often considered a boon for poor people. But how far have we come already? In 2008 and 2009 I conducted research to study to shed some light on cell phone usage patterns among young urban South Africans. I set out to find a reliable methodology to be representative of the broad spectrum of activities, with a special focus on understanding internet and online media usage by low-income youth in Cape Town's eastern townships. The opportunities associated with increasingly ubiquitous access to mobile technologies by the youth in Sub-Saharan Africa are widely understood but unfortunately little to no quantitative data was available for this age group. Especially internet access and usage has often been badly understood and represented in the past, simply because of the lack of shared concepts and shifting descriptions for what passes, in effect, as "using the internet" but would be described as such by only a few young people.

Complete results

Full report, 2009, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
Survey topline results 
Field questionnaire

International Communication Association conference, 2009, Chicago
(paper | presentation)

Pilot study

Initial results from the 2008 pilot study showed the methodological challenges we face when trying to assess mobile access to media and the Internet among low-income South African youth. Existing published data largely ignored this challenge, leading to numbers that were completely disconnected from reality.  

Pilot paper (56 pages)
MobileActive presentation, October 2008, Johannesburg, South Africa
e/merge presentation, September 2008, Cape Town, South Africa