Marle van der Merwe
Nimble of mind and thumb, the Y-generation is hooked onto the cellphone. Even in SA, where youth culture is far from homogenous, globalisation has extended its tentacles and tendered the temptations of mobile technology.
Like their global peers, the local youth are among the fastest-growing users of cellphones. They form a rising proportion of new connections, of which 90% are now prepaid customers.
And, like many young users elsewhere in the world, South African youth revel in text communication. In fact, tapping out countless SMS messages, in drawn-out dialogue format, is the hallmark of these users.
It is also cheaper than chatting by voice. Using the cellphone to phone is left for events of varying degrees of urgency, like making contact with parents. Since these youngsters often have to foot their own telecommunications bills, they will find ways of being in contact without paying heavily for the privilege.
Product innovations from cellular companies are also making it increasingly affordable to chat by voice. Services like family top-up, hybrid contracts, prepaid packages and airtime transfer mechanisms are making cellular services affordable and accessible for the youth. Examples of these new targeted products include MTN's Me2U and Vodacom's Yebo 5.
A recent iTouch survey showed that just over half of a sample of scholars and students spend less than R100 per month on cellphone usage. The sample of users receive roughly as many calls as they make; the number . . . . . .