It didn’t sound like much when I first heard about it. Someone calls you and then hangs up immediately before you pick up. You see the number and call them back. At least, this is what would happen in the US. This is a place where people have never-ending minutes on their cellphones and always find some way to pay their mobile bill, even if it is $500 like I overheard some idiot kid saying his was.
But, in Africa, things take on a different meaning. Everyone apparently has a cellphone, just not the money to use them. So, this “beeping” method is used and for those that I know who have lived there, it’s a massive pain to deal with. My friend, Kim goes in to a greater amount of detail. You see, if you’re white and your number gets out, you’ll get flooded with calls as an expat living there. Read his article for all the grittiness.
This is also have some economic repercussions which Reuters has covered as well. While I’m of the opinion that cellphones are a pretty unnecessary technology, in a countries where landlines are few and far between, they’re one of the few ways that people seem to be able to stay in contact with one another. So, at some point they’ll have to figure out some way to deal with this flood of junk on their network. Maybe making text messages free or next to free? I will have more of a firsthand experience of this when I get to Africa next year.