Between 2003 and 2008, the number of cell phone subscriptions grew from 11 million to 246 million, faster in Africa than anywhere else in the world, according to the International Telecommunications Union. And while less than three percent of rural areas in Africa have landline telephone connection, the ITU estimated that over 40 percent of these areas have phone access via cell phone.
While Europe’s technology infrastructure was centered on the personal computer, Botha said Africa, and much of the developing world, is basing its infrastructure around the mobile phone.
While there is a trend among wealthy mobile phone users to buy expensive phones with internet or Bluetooth capability, Botha said most phone users need only three capabilities to be connected with each other: text and voice messaging, and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, which allows phones to communicate with their service provider.
"If you want to connect to everyone, this is what you need to have," Botha said.
Recognising the proliferation of mobile phones in South Africa, CSIR’s Meraka Institute, with funding from the Department of Arts and Culture, worked to develop Lwazi, a cell phone-based system to disseminate government information.