Use of technology

Information and communication technologies have played an important role for the people of Senegal and Mali, but applications must be tailored to specific needs and local resources (e.g. low literacy and use of local languages​​). Given the relatively low literacy rate and oral tradition in most cases, with the strong use of local languages​​, the most common media remain direct conversation (whether through meetings between farmers, breeders, etc. or conversations by mobile phones) and community radio. In addition to giving farmers, herders and fishermen the ability to buy and sell products more effectively and to make a better profit, access to SMS and the Internet would be of considerable use to them. Nevertheless, there is still little use of the Internet.

The information gathered through the field study indicate that mobile phones and community radio are most used and best suited  means of communication. When available, the Internet is also an important source of information. However, while many Internet cafes have sprung up in major cities during the last decade, Internet use in rural areas of Senegal and Mali remains marginal. This may evolve over the coming years, with the development of new mobile applications tailored to specific needs (information on weather, markets and health of animals sent by SMS and other mobile technology).

Changing Environment

Here are some figures about mobile phone use in West Africa:

  • In 2009, the estimated population of Senegal was 13.7 million inhabitants. The number of mobile phone subscriptions (for the most part prepaid cards) was 5.4 million in 2008. This means that approximately one out of every 2.5 inhabitants has a mobile phone. In a context where 42.2% of the population is under 15 years, this ratio is doubled for people over 20 years.
  • For Mali, this ratio is slightly lower but remains significant. For a population estimated at 13.4 million inhabitants (2009), 3.4 million mobile phone subscriptions were counted (including prepaid cards). This means than approximately one out of every four inhabitants has a mobile phone. With 48.3% of the population under 15 years, the use of mobile phones for those over 20 years is almost 50% of the population.
  • In Mali, there are 168 radio stations including 121 community and associative radio stations, 38 commercial and denominational radio stations (figures from the Union des Radios et télévisions libres du Mali – URTEL). The complete list of independent radio stations in Mali is available as an appendix of the present report.

When ICV first began its work in Timbuktu in 2002, a cyber cafe was available, but there was no mobile phone coverage. Today, many herders in the desert are using mobile phones and solar panels to recharge them.

The figures below provide some insight about the development of technologies and the use of mobile phones that has literally exploded in Mali and Senegal in recent years.

Languages and literacy

The following languages are spoken by the population in Senegal: French (official), Balanta-Ganja, Hassaniyya, Jola-Fonyi, Mandinka, Mandjak, Mankanya, Noon, Pulaar, Serer-Sine, Soninke and Wolof. The average literacy rate in the country is 39.3%, that is 51.1% for men and 29.2% for women.

Data from field study

As far as the means of communication used by the respondents are concerned, 65.3% receive information at the market, 25.8% from neighbors, 33.9% by means of the community radio and 29% receive information through the use of mobile phones (conversation). Only 10.5% of respondents indicate receiving information by SMS and 2.4% receive information through the Internet (at Internet cafés) and 1.6% through the Internet at home. 38% of respondents indicated using technological tools, such as the mobile phone and Internet, more than once per day and 31% once per day. 12% of respondents indicated never using these tools. 91% of the respondents indicated that they share information concerning agricultural/stock-breeding/fishing practices. 87.8% indicated sharing this information in direct conversation with neighbors, whereas only 26.7% and 16% of respondents respectively indicated sharing information through the use of mobile phones by means of conversation and the sending of SMS messages. Only 2.3% of the respondents share information through the Internet (at an Internet café). With regard to the information which is considered to be useful to receive by the respondents to the survey, the most common are market prices (approx. 70%) and weather conditions (approx. 50%). Other types of information considered useful are issues regarding animal health (approx. 45%) and good practices for the cultivation of various crops (approx. 42%).

Mobile phone subscriptions by country (Source: UIT)

Country In 2003
In 2008
in 5 years in %
Ratio mobile phones / fixed lines
Mali 247.2 3'439.0 13.91 42.4:1
Sénégal 782.4 5'389.1 6.89 22.7:1
Afrique du Sud
16'860.0 45'000.0 2.67 10.2:1
Espagne 37'219.8 49'677.5 1.33 2.5:1
Suisse 6'189.0 8'896.7 1.44 1.8:1
France 41'702.0 57'972.0 1.39 1.7:1
Etats-Unis 160'637.0 270'500.0 1.68 1.7:1

Internet Connection in 2008 (Source: UIT)

Countries Subscribers
per 100 inhab.
Users per
100 inhab.
Mali 10.1 0.08 200.0 1.57
Senegal 48.1 0.39 1'020.0 8.35
South Africa 3'566.0 7.51 4'187.0 8.43
Spain 9'135.8 20.54 25'240.0 56.74
France 18'700.0 30.14 42'315.4 68.21
United States 72'721.0 23.56 230'630.0 74.00
Switzerland 2'780.0 36.86 5'806.8 77.00
World 528'035 8.32 1'587'419.8 23.44

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