Increasing Public Participation in Local Government by Means of Mobile Phones: What do South African Youth Think?


  • Jean-Paul Van Belle Department of Information Systems, University of Cape Town
  • Kevin Cupido Department of Information Systems, University of Cape Town



m-Participation, m-Government, Mobile Technologies, South Africa, youth


Apathy towards political participation is of concern for many countries throughout the world, and for many people political participation means no more than voting in an election. The South African Constitution makes several provisions for public participation but E-government solutions are not suited to the South African context, where fixed-line internet penetration is dramatically lower than that of mobile phones. Mobile phones cut across socio-economic barriers and have changed the way we communicate. They have been used to mobilise people in different parts of the world, more notably those who were passive politically, into action.  This research set out to investigate whether using mobile phones to increase participation in local government would be acceptable or not. A mixed-method research was conducted in Cape Town, South Africa, amongst youths between the ages of 18 and 35 who had no access to fixed-line internet from either home or work. Constructs from a modified UTAUT model and Social Capital Theory were used to determine the individual intention to use government mobile service if they were made available. It was found that there is not only great interest in using mobile phones to interact with government mobile services, but also to interact with other members of the community. The ability to report on corruption and service delivery problems was particularly welcome.

Author Biographies

Jean-Paul Van Belle, Department of Information Systems, University of Cape Town

Jean-Paul Van Belle is a professor in the Department of Information Systems. He is Director of the Centre for Information Technology and National Development in Africa (CITANDA). He has more than 130 peer-reviewed publications, most of which are in the realm of ICT4D and technology diffusion in Africa.

Kevin Cupido, Department of Information Systems, University of Cape Town

Kevin Cupido was an honours student at the University of Cape Town. He is currently working as an IT professional in an IT company in the Western Cape