This article examines rural telecommunications access and use among poor village households in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Discussion is based upon a content analysis of 165 telephone calls, as well as a broader information and communication technology (ICT) ownership, access and use survey undertaken in 50 poor households within a number of rural villages in the Mount Frere district. These data are complimented and supported by qualitative data emerging from a longer-term UK Department for International Development-funded study of ICT use and social communication practices among the urban and rural poor in South Africa. The purpose of the article is to: (i) question existing notions of telecommunications access; (ii) assess the extent to which rural inequalities are exacerbated or ameliorated by telecommunications access; and (iii) examine the extent to which telecommunications are enlisted as a strategic tool by poor households for maintaining kin-based redistributive networks and enhancing livelihood sustainability.
Journal of Asian and African Studies, April 2007 vol. 42 no. 2 185-207.