Last weekend I had the privilege to spend a few hours with some of the great “Geek” minds in South Africa at the GeekRetreat. As a “wanna be” Social Entrepreneur who always looks for opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others, the GeekRetreat seemed to be the perfect way to kick-start and to expand on some Social Good projects that needed the Geek support. Observing and listening to a number of talks and conversations there as one question that kept running through my mind: “Are South African Geeks ready to change the World?”. Prior to the Geek Retreat my personal opinion and answer to that question would have been “NO”. However, the more I started engaging with “great minds” at the GeekRetreat the following started to emerge:
- The conversations were sincere and discussions such as “open access to education for everyone“, “supporting our teachers with science and technology resources“, “improving literacy amongst our youth“, “banking the unbanked and poor“, “supporting small start-ups with mentorship and possible funds” and many others started to surface. Again my take is always talk is cheap, but exploring it in more depth I realised that many of the people were actively involved with these great initiatives either lobbying or managing such projects.
- Whenever people put others before themselves and willing to invest in other people then surely its people that I would like to be associated with. Clearly not everyone at the GeekRetreat had the same motives but it was an opportunity for all of us to be exposed to various initiatives and ideas. On a personal note I’ve already had FOUR confirmed contributions to the projects that I am involved in and its all about making a difference in the lives of others. Jarred and Saul will be taking the time out to do a podcast on the Reconstructed project and the impact that it will have on the community I work with is priceless. Remember many of the people who’s part of this project are people who were discarded and even their parents had no interest in their lives and here the Digital Edge team are offering their time and resources to create awareness of what has happened in the lives of this community. Another contribution is Dave Duarte unselfishly committing himself to do a talk at one of our sessions and we had 2 other wonderful possibilities that will support the sustainability of the Reconstructed project.
- Incubation of ideas is another key aspect and during my “talking heads” session ideas sparked the birth of the “Community Start-up” – Social Media Factory that in a few days already have more than 20 community members signed up and possible collaborations also confirmed. A potential sponsorship of another Community Start-up was also support so lots to look forward to by changing the lives of others.
So after spending a weekend with South African Geeks do I think they are ready to change the world? YES absolutely, a difference in one life can go a long way and this weekend SOUTH AFRICAN GEEKS made a huge difference in my life. Therefore overall, I am happy that I attended my first GeekRetreat the only downfall perhaps was that it didn’t take place over a long weekend.
This weekend started with lots of excitement when we had a visit by the US Consulate General at the Reconstructed Living Lab and had the privilege to share our experiences of using technology to bring about social change in our communities. The weekend also continued with training with the Mom 2.0 and Reconstructed Team. We will be hosting our 2nd Annual Social Media for Social Change graduation next month with 16 graduates from the Cape Flats community.
This morning the weekend ended on a good note when Radio 2000 breakfast show nominated RLabs project as their inspiration story for the day and it was an opportunity to acknowledge all the community members and sponsors for contributing to a life changing project. Well with weekends like these I am definitely looking forward to the week ahead.
Today was one of those days where we will be taking the Advice Support service to another level in collaboration with 4 other Non-profit organisations and supported by Department of Social Development. The Substance Abuse Mobile Counselling pilot project will investigate the use of cellphones as a counselling and support medium for people who are impacted by substance abuse.
All the NGOs came together today for the oficial launch of the mobile counselling pilot and having a group of people working together, coming from different backgrounds was amazing to experience as the dream and vision for establishing many of these Reconstructed Living Lab spaces across South Africa are moving towards becoming a reality. Although all the mobile counsellors from the various organisations came together for the launch at the Impact Centre, the group will be working remotely with the support hub being at the birth place of Advice Support Network at IDM’s Impact Centre.
With all the excitement in the air and representatives from different organisations coming together through the purpose of using cellphones for social change seeing the impact the session of the launch had on those in need of support was incredible. During the first two hour session of the pilot, 103 subscribers made contact with us and 2034 messages were sent to people in need of support in the area of drug addiction.
The best part of this good start is that it is only the beginning as we will see more lives be reconstructed through people and the use of technology.
This morning part of a dream came to a reality for me as we had representatives from various non-profits, NGOs, Government departments, community groups and citizens coming together to plan the rollout of a Western Cape Mobile Substance Abuse Counselling Service. As a group we are piloting a distributed mobile counselling service across the Western Cape starting in 5 high risk districts. This will allow local organisations to engage with people at risk or in need with support using mobile phones like our Drug Advice Support service but with a Department of Social Development referral system to support it. With this new development we are looking forward seeing how lives can be reconstructed using mobile and internet technologies.
This morning I had the privilege to facilitate the Reconstructed session at the Reconstructed Living Lab (RLabs) space. Video blogging or “Vlogging” was the area we focused on and it was amazing to see how the team managed to video blog with ease. A short background about what video blogging was and how others have been using it (like the “From the Couch” site) was explained.
The team had to go out and shoot a short 30 second video which they had to upload to YouTube and post to their blog. Within a few minutes we had the video shoot, some even posted to YouTube and embedded into their blog. You can view some of the videos on the Reconstructed blog. Many of the team will be using video as a medium to explore the rich and colorful stories of their communities sharing that message of hope
Today an article appeared in the Weekend Post by Yolande Stander “Support group celebrates success” featuring the work we’ve been doing over the past year using mobile technology to support people in need:
“THE South African group who conceptualised using social media like MXit to address social problems affecting young people has celebrated one year of success – and sealed a deal with a Bay company to further their progress.
The success story began a year ago with 12 men and women who called themselves The Reconstructed. All had experience of either drug addiction and dealing as well as gangsterism but, fully rehabilitated and trained to council people, they began using MXit to reach out to those at risk.
The brainchild behind the principle is social entrepreneur and information technology lecturer Marlon Parker.
Parker was in Port Elizabeth this week to introduce non-profit organisations, NGOs, community-based organisations and charities to social media and help them use these technologies as strategic tools for engagement, relationship building with stakeholders, networking and fundraising…..“
With the increased number of organisations especially non-profits looking at how they can engage with young people the video below, by Graham Brown of Mobile Youth, gives an insightful overview of what these organisations can do to reach their youth target market. The Reconstructed Project also featured in this video as we continue spreading the message of hope amongst our young people in South Africa.
One of the projects that we are collaborating with is the Red MXit information service offering HIV info to users in different languages. This project is currently be managed by Cell-Life and the idea is to give access to information on the MXit platform. The user have to add the service on the MXit profile as a buddy and can view information in 4 of the official South African languages (SA have 11 official languages – See table on the right for language distribution during 2001 census) and in the text (mobile) language. It was interesting to see (High level observations) which of these languages are the most popular amongst our users using this service. Red gave the user the following language options:
- MXit Chat
The number of subscribers to this service is 22,003 of which 62% is male subscribers. The age groups for this service support the MXit demographics with 76% of the subscribers being between the ages of 15-25. The same content was available in all the language options for the user and the following was the language preferences (estimates based on overview of available users count) ranked:
1) English was the most popular choice with approximately 60% of users accessing content
2) Chat Language (MXi Chat) had approximately 25% of users
3) Afrikaans had approximately 10% of the users accessing content
4) Zulu content was accessed by approximately 3% of users
5 Sesotho content was accessed by approximately 2% of users
Although Zulu has the highest number of home language speakers in South Africa in only managed 4th on the list of available languages with the English language proving to be the most popular with the current group of subscribers. Interesting observation in the above list is the MXit chat or chat language that was more popular than Afrikaans, Zulu, Sesotho combined (These languages presenting more than 45% of the South African population).
Perhaps more should be done to see how the chat language can be integrated as part of mobile service delivery with the increase of mobile users being comfortable communicating using it as its language of choice.
To add this contact on MXit:
- Go to Tradepost
- Select MXit Mix
- Select My Culture option
- Select Red
- Add Contact
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