All Projects

‘Yesterday’: daily mobile-centric communications practices in South Africa

Network Society Project, University of Witwatersrand

Project type Research 

Country South Africa 

Support £74,770

In partnership with University of Cape Town, South Africa and Rhodes University, South Africa
“In order to understand what makes people ‘hard to reach’, we need to reach out to them.”
Start date
October 2015
End date
March 2017
Period: 17 months


T4T&A practitioners rarely invest significant time and effort in understanding their intended users, or the constraints they face in using technology. In South Africa, for example, tech is too expensive for many people to use, and there is a correlation between low incomes and low mobile connectivity.
This lack of a user-centred approach can lead to unrealistic assumptions about how users behave and integrate tech tools into their daily lives. Even if users do then adopt the tools, it may not result in the consequences the T4T&A practitioners intended.


This project focuses on ‘hard to reach’ mobile users (phone and Internet) in South Africa.

Using an interview diary ‘day reconstruction’ methodology, the researchers aim to better understand the motivations of less-connected mobile users, the constraints they face, and the significance of mobiles in their daily lives.

This will contribute to the body of research around mobile use in the country, and enable T4T&A practitioners to better reach these groups in future.


The South African Network Society Project hosted at the University of Witwatersrand’s Journalism and Media Programme, is one of the few centres in Africa dedicated to the study of the Internet and society.

The network has worked with partners in China, Russia, Portugal, the UK and the US, and conducted the most detailed quantitative study of Internet use in South Africa.