People walk while speaking on the phone in Nairobi, Kenya on October 1, 2012.

Editor’s Note: Toby Shapshak is a technology journalist based in Johannesburg where he writes about tech and innovation in Africa. He edits the South African edition of Stuff magazine and has been named by GQ as one of the top 30 men in media. Follow him on Twitter: @Shapshak

Story highlights

The first time most Africans use the internet is on a mobile phone, says Toby Shapshak

Shapshak: While many don't have electricity, mobiles mean anyone can have a phone

Mobile money is big business - half of Kenya's GDP now moves via this method

In South Africa, 25 per cent of Google searches are via mobile

Johannesburg, South Africa CNN  — 

The internet in Africa is entirely different to the internet used in the developed world. In America or Europe, the internet is generally something you surf on a computer or tablet – a device with a 10-inch to 15-inch screen.

In Africa, hundreds of millions of people will experience the internet for the first time on a 2-inch cellphone screen. Probably in black and white. And probably only as text.

They may not even know they are using the internet. Google, for instance, offers search and Gmail via SMS, the text message service that is still the most popular form of communication.