Vodacom has still not paid Kenneth Makate for his invention of the Please Call Me messaging service. Vodacom was ordered to compensate Makate for his role in the creation of the Please Call Me service by the Constitutional Court in 2016.
Please Call Me, which allows a cell phone user without airtime to send a free message requesting to be called back, was a game changer for South Africa’s then fledgling telecommunications sector, as it helped increase traffic to mobile operators. Later it also began to generate revenue through advertising.
The Nokia 1100 cell phone sold more than 250 million units making it the world’s best selling phone. It was targeted at developing countries. In Africa it became most people’s first phone, leapfrogging landlines altogether.
Zimbabwe is running out of cash again and this time it is on track to join Kenya and Sweden as the world’s first cashless societies. Cell phone apps have facilitated payments for even the smallest items from street vendors. Similar apps have helped prop up Zimbabwe’s struggling economy as the diaspora sends home remittances to support family members there.
Working with Zimbabwean beading artist Kuda Kuimba, this show brings together a series of beaded cell phone screens that tell a story about life in southern Africa.