The Mobile Phone in Africa: Has It Become a Highway to the Information Society or Not?

 

The single most dynamic ICT development in recent years has been the worldwide surge in mobile phone subscriptions. This “mobile miracle” has been continued in the developing world, particularly in Africa. At a time when discourses on the information society have focused on the internet, the mobile phone has been providing access to telecommunication to people at the bottom of the income pyramid – often for the first time in their lives. Moreover, mobile broadband internet has raised hopes that mobile phones will allow Africa to leapfrog across the digital divide towards becoming an information society. This article addresses issues related to Africa’s position in the information society pertaining to access to mobile phones and mobile broadband; pricing, ICT skills and readiness, usage patterns, potential for usage in education, and impact on the lives of Africans. Conclusions are drawn on the potential role of mobile phones as information highways to the information society.