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IDIA2014 Conference
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
3-4 November 2014

One year on: A longitudinal case study of computer and mobile phone use among rural South African youth

Lorenzo Dalvit
School of Journalism and Media Studies
Rhodes University
South Africa

Fortunate Gunzo
Education Department
Rhodes University
South Africa

Full paper


This paper analyzes computer and mobile phone use by a sample of 735 students of all ages in 10 rural schools in the Dwesa community in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The area, representative of many marginalised rural African realities, is the site of a well-documented ICT-for-development project called the Siyakhula Living Lab. Networked computer labs are present in some of the schools considered in the sample but no intervention concerning mobile phones has taken place. Teachers administered the same questionnaire orally to their classes in 2011 and 2012 and students responded by show of hands. This proved a simple, effective and context-sensitive way of collecting data from respondents who are not familiar with written questionnaires. We were able to compare the findings from the two studies and this yielded some interesting results. The numbers of those who reported having used a computer doubled from 32 to 64%. School access to computers increased from 32 to 52% while an additional 14% started accessing computers in public spaces such as an Internet cafe. Mobile phones, being personal and portable, are used more frequently than computers. The daily use of mobile phones increased from 59 to 71% and weekly use increased from 3 to 17%.

Key words

Mobile-for-development, ICT-for-development, mobile phones in rural Africa