JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Towering over downtown Johannesburg is a huge cylindrical skyscraper, a red banner at its crown with one word printed in white, ‘Vodacom’—the name of the largest telecommunications company in South Africa. The tower reminds onlookers of the importance the telecommunications sector plays in this nation of 53 million citizens, where there are more active mobile SIM cards then there are people.
The dominance of mobile technology is hard to miss in South Africa. The country has one of the highest mobile subscriber penetrations in sub-Saharan Africa. Advertisements for companies like Vodacom litter the airwaves and online. In a city like Johannesburg, there are few residents who aren’t connected to the rest of the world through a cellphone.
For South Africans, having a cellphone means more than just socializing. It also means having a portal to access information and connect with health services.