MobileActive08: Use of cellphones by SA youth

Getting the numbers straight: Use of mobile phones by low-income youth
Tino Kreutzer

Incredible presentation — I’ve always said that South African cellphone users are very savvy. This really confirms it, even (and especially) at the bottom end of the income spectrum.

We all know about the huge growth in cellphone usage, but not a lot of data on what people are really doing with them. Industry report data insufficient for usage info, and cellphones are shared (which muddies data); household surveys are insufficient — and seem to be wrong (asking wrong questions)! More on this later.

This research project: quantitative and qualitative, cultural probes to get the questions right. Currently towards end of data collection, covering students in bottom 50% of income in Cape Town. Pilot study: 11th graders in extreme case (bad) high school in Samora Machel township, Cape Town. 100% have used cellphones, 97% use daily, 75% own (very few own a SIM card but NOT a phone — this is different to elsewhere in Africa). Everything else (including desktop computer) have around 30% EVER USED figure. Used for: roughly equally voice, SMS, “please call me”s. (As an aside: “please call me”s were offered to get people not to do missed calls, as missed calls are heavier on the network).

Most said hadn’t used internet, but about 83% had in the previous day used a service actually on the intern – instant messaging, news, weather, downloads — so people are not identifying this as “the internet.” About half of students were doing each of taking pictures, playing games (mostly by girls!), recording videos on phones. Lots of usage of Facebook — even amongst students who have never used a computer. Mobile internet messaging: MXit 29%, noknok 17%, meep 9%, 2go 5% (note: large MTN market share here — interesting trend this).

Average expenditure on airtime a week: R30 — about HALF of all expenses (obviously these are students living at home). Fair amount of this is for social standing value — callphone use is decreasing and is seen as a little embarrassing (phoning your girlfriend from one would be considered cheap).

Challenges: not yet a shared vocabulary, tricky to get questions right — eg. people are using other people’s phones to get around having an older phone themselves.

Full results:

One thought on “MobileActive08: Use of cellphones by SA youth

  1. That’s really interesting. Why is MXit not bigger, given the huge share of income required to keep up? Status clearly a big factor in usage. Economical services will have to be cool to be adopted. Tricky marketing challenge. Sounds like clever research.


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