Archive for the ‘ICT4D’ tag
The teacher group consisting of Sarah Hanton, Boudina McConnachie and Anna Wertlen were one of the top 20 finalists in the Microsoft Partners in Learning Forum, South Africa 2012. Hanton and McConnachie took part in a judging process at the Durban Hilton on the first and second of April, where they presented their work on awareNet and were awarded a Judges Award for Innovative Use of Social Networking. They won prizes including software for schools and a 3 month subscription to Brittanica online, and also spent a day at the SA Basic Education Conference.
McConnachie describes the day: “The judging was quite strenuous, we did 4 different sessions each with a different judge. Some other teachers presented good projects, too.” Hanton also thinks that the team could have done better and commented: “The judging process was so hectic that we didn’t really get a chance to network with other teachers there or really get to grips with their projects.” Better feedback on how the projects were scored would help for next years entry, which will hopefully build on this success.
Although the project didn’t make into the top 4, we are very proud that it was rewarded, and we are sure that the audience has become aware of the benefits of our work and ideas of innovative teaching and online collaboration. Thank you very much for your hard work!
If you are interested to also start a project on awareNet as part of your curriculum or co-curriculum, please contact us.
Anna Wertlen was invited to give a talk at the 2nd Annual Women in ICT Conference at the Southern Sun Montecasino Hotel in Johannesburg (24/3/12). Her talk was about “Community-driven ICT Enabled Development: Making the ICT services accessible to the communities and to develop awareness of these resources.” Other speakers were Meryl Malcommess (Marketing Director, SYSPRO South Africa), Robynne Erwin (CEO of SmartXchange) and Teryl Schroenn (CEO of Accsys).
In an online social network, everyone is equal, because everyone has exactly the same space, rights and opportunities. Gender makes no difference to a computer unless you ask the computer to do so.
Equality is the basis for development. You cannot force a group to become more active by giving them superior rights. But equality means that everyone has the same right to come up with a new idea or with a special need.
To be able to define a special need or come up with an idea you have to be well educated: First, one needs to learn about the existence of choice, then get a real sense of choice, then comes the most challenging part of actually using choices and then only the achievement of choices become visible (Kleine 2010).
Development is increasing (peoples’) choice. Others also call it empowerment.
The Conference opened eyes of a very interesting and multicultural group of women, and everyone was of the opinion that there should me more such conferences.
The VSA proudly received the following endorsement letter from the Eastern Cape Department of Education (DoE):
Endorsement of awareNet Learner Based Social Networking for Schools in the Eastern Cape
This letter certifies that the Eastern Cape DoE, as represented by the Hon. MEC for Education Mr. Mandla Makupula, supports the use of the awareNet network for collaborative learning in our schools.
The reasons for usage of said network are:
- Secure learning environment learning about social networking and online collaboration
- Inter-school collaboration
- Improved learner enthusiasm and motivation w.r.t. learning
- Lower Internet costs, in general, at school
- Support for mesh networks, which allow circuits of schools to be connected and for these to have free networking within their circuit.
We also understand that awareNet is a product of the Eastern Cape, created by eKhaya ICT in conjunction with the Village Scribe Association NPO, and is a world first as far as distributed social networking is concerned. We are proud to support a local product in our schools and are confident that a partnership with awareNet will go a long way towards skilling our youth for the future.
Please, contact us if you or your school would also like to benefit from the mentioned advantages.
Anna and Ron Wertlen went to the SANGONet Conference this week (01-03/11/11), at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg to present the awareNet social network to an international audience of educators, politicians, funders and activists.
SANGONet brings together everyone interested in ICT for rural development (#ICT4RD). The conference was very well organised and it was made sure that the different parties exchanged important information about their programmes, products, funding methods, initiatives and reasons for failure or success.
The VSA demonstrated how awareNet works, and eKhaya ICT additionally introduced the concept of Reed House Systems’ Teleweaver. Especially, the awareNet demonstration attracted three large groups of listeners. We were approached with requests for installations of awareNet at schools (in local mesh networks) as well as the usage of awareNet as a service delivery platform for specific content from potential partners. We are looking forward to follow up on all those offers and ideas.
The VSA and three of our partners, eKhaya ICT, Left2Write and ReedHouseSystems, went together to rural Nkwalini in the Eastern Cape for several reasons. One was to hold a social networking workshop using awareNet for learners, teachers and community coordinators of the Zwelenqaba SSSchool (27.-28.09.11). Richard Strickland from eKhaya ICT updated the awareNet server and the laptops’ browsers and fixed a few of the laptops of the solar school computer lab. Anna Wertlen from the VSA brushed up the teachers’ and coordinator’s knowledge and introduced about 50 new learners to awareNet. Erika Wertlen from Left2Write chaired a session about blogging and publishing during the workshop. Then, all learners blogged about solar energy. Additionally, Mrs E Wertlen delivered a great donation of books and magazines to the school’s library on behalf of Left2Write. Further, Ronald Wertlen as director of RHS followed up on an investigation of mobile banking and most importantly was concerned with maintaining relationships with the community and the schools in advance of the TeleWeaver rollout.
The community welcomed us warmly and had prepared our visit well. The learners worked with great enthusiasm and concentration and thanked us with a self-composed song about computers and solar energy. Siphiwo Msindwana, the community coordinator, acted very professionally by consulting eKhaya ICT for mediation between the community and the school. Disagreements werecleared. The teachers were overwhelmed by the generosity of Left2Write and promised to use the new resources wisely.
We also paid a visit to Bulunbula Incubator to maintain our partnership and talk about current and future projects.A German member of the VSA came all the way to accompany us and ask a lot of questions to show oversea’s interest. All in all, it was a very successful and very busy trip. We hope that we can repeat it soon in many other rural schools in South Africa and beyond. Please, contact us if you are interested.
We had a fantastic music event at Peace Day yesterday, here in Grahamstown-South Africa! We celebrated Peace and awareNet with great HipHop music that was composed especially for this event. It took us only 2 months to get five groups together and train them to perform their own song in the contest while they learned how to use computers and the Internet in a productive and creative manner.
In the beginning, we showed Jeremy Gilley’s short movie about Peace One Day to give everyone the background about our cooperation. Then, there was a motivational message from Sakhile Moleshe, a musician who also grew up in the Eastern Cape and is now an international celebrity. We had great guest artists: Inyaniso, the Boys in Motion, Keegan Too Chilled Prince and Roddy Zipp. The judges, Erika Wertlen from Left2Write, Jared Lang and the latter two guest artists who all took their duty very seriously. And last but not least the prizes for the best song (Mary Waters High School: professional music video), best rapper (Benjamin Mahlasela SS: head phones and an Inyaniso CD) and best singers (also MWHS: Inyaniso CDs), sponsored by SonicArtStudio, the Makana Municipality, well and us. We even had to quickly hand out an additional certificate for the best group who showed us true heart and peaceful awareness: Victoria Girls High School. Thank you all for putting so much energy, money and passion into the training, songs and judging! You were fantastic!
We loved all the songs so much that we decided that they will all be recorded. We will make an awareNet Peace Day album and turn this into a new tradition here in Grahamstown. Watch out for more next year on Peace Day, 21/09/12, the Day of Global Truce!
We have worked very hard the last weeks to train learners how to use computers and the Internet using awareNet while training them how to rhyme, sing and rap a HipHop song. All of this is now documented in a short film which will be screened on Peace Day at both, Noluthando Hall in Grahamstown and at the O2 Arena in London, UK.
Today, we had a first rehearsal at a school assembly which gave us a first taste of what the Peace Day Celebration might look like. Amazing!
Ron Wertlen from eKhaya ICT has created a video about the idea and functionality of awareNet, the online social networking site for learners that was co-developed by eKhaya ICT and the VSA.
You can find the video on the eKhaya ICT website and on YouTube. Please, have a look at it! We would be interested to get your feed back: Did you like the video, did you understand what it is about, what would you welcome to be different?
The VSA thanks Ron Wertlen for making this short film. We hope you enjoy the film, too!
The VSA and a lot of amazing partners become serious now about the awareNet theme Song Project. You probably wonder what it’s all about. Let me explain. It’s going to be an amazing story for Peace Day, I hope.
It all started with the idea that awareNet needs a song for the learners and all partners to sing, to identify, to unify and to let everyone feel the strength. Music is an expression of life. Gabriel Spilkin kindly offered to produce a song in a style that was determined by the awareNet users: We added a poll to awareNet. At the moment it looks like HipHop, RnB and House are the favourites. Thank you for donating your professional work, Gabriel!
The local band Inyaniso (on YouTube) kindly offered to train kids from four schools (Mahlasela PSS, Nyaluza SS, Mary Waters HS and VGHS) how to sing and rap. Our first session took place yesterday at Mahlasela PSS and the artists Zukani, Melikhaya, Sivuyile and Lunga did wonders to the faces and the bodies of the learners. Thank you for your spirit! From being scared and shy they slowly took a liking in the idea and started tapping their feet and quickly trying to learn the words. Smiles! The best thing that could happen was that the equipment didn’t work, so we had to listen to a song by Inyaniso from their car’s loudspeakers. Classic! And can you believe it: One of the learners was already playing the exact song from his phone even though it’s not even published yet! How is that?! - These kids are amazingly connected and just naturally using technology as part of their life.
We are also very grateful to Corinne Cooper, owner of SonicArtStudio and lecturer of Sound Technology at Rhodes University. She offered to work with the kids on the song and to record them after they have shown their performance on stage on Peace Day. This is absolutely fantastic. The VSA is very much looking forward to having a song that can be played and sung online and offline. We will make sure that people will listen to it not only in Africa, but overseas and in connection with the aware Yet? Campaign.
What I currently work on is to find a suitable hall for the music event on Peace Day and to find some form of sponsorship to pay for the rent, the music equipment, the advertising and some material. If you think this is a good project and this is worth a donation, please contact us. I will keep you updated about the project. Watch this space and follow us on facebook and twitter!
awareYet? began as a guerilla marketing exercise during the Social Enterprise World Forum 2011 in Johannesburg. The campaign aimed to affix a sticker with the characteristic eyes of the campaign onto every participant at the event, in recognition of the youth unemployed in South Africa. This was a random and fun thing and reflects the position of the youth, which likes fun, and is subjected to random cruelty.
Youth unemployment is a world-wide problem and occurs for a number of reasons. In South Africa, an upper-middle earning country (World Economic Forum) — the richest country of continental Africa! – youth unemployment is a result of a complex interaction of dysfunctional social institutions, including mainly education and local government, that lead to a “no hope situation“ for the 15 – 29 year-olds. Manyof them are in fact characterised as “unemployable”. An outrageous category for any person!
Xhora Mouth JSS – bricks as benches
Toilets at Zwelenqaba SSS
These youths are legally obliged to attend sub-standard schooling, with educators who are all too willing to skip school, because of problems of lack of equipment, lack of materials, an undertone of violence, absenteeism, filthy toilets, teenage pregnancy and drugs. Educators feel unqualified to handle the disaster that unfolds before them every day and they become accepting of their dysfunctional environment as they feel powerless to change it. Such youths contribute to the terrible statistics of South African youth unemployment:
“The unemployment rate among those under the age of 25 years old is about 50 per cent, accounting for 30 per cent of total unemployment. Including those aged25 to 29 years old adds another million to the unemployed” (National Treasury 2011: 9).
Democratic revolution in Egypt
One can compare this to the unemployment rates in Northern African and Middle Eastern States: “Despite robust economic growth, youth unemployment rates in the Middle East are high, ranging from 20 to 30 percent in most countries in the region but exceeding 45 percent in some countries (e.g. Algeria and Iraq). Young people with secondary and post-secondary education face severe difficulties in securing employment mainly due to skills mismatches and long queuing for public sector jobs.” (Middle East Youth Initiative, 2011, visited 2011-04-28)
The eyes of the youth see change and are happy.
Energetic, unemployed youths turn in the best case to democratic activities, as witnessed in North Africa in early 2011. Here, fuelled by unemployment and enabled by ICTs youths went to the streets and won their rights in a humane and enabling manner. The region as a whole stands to gain much through their actions, their bravery and dignity.
On the other hand, unemployed youths can also try their hand at other things, such as violence and crime. “According to the United Nations Population Fund (1998:3), youth unemployment can drive many people into living outside the law both to survive and as a means of expressing dissatisfaction at the apparent neglect of their very existence.” (National Labour and Economic Development Institute, 2007). The co-existence of amazing wealth next to townships which lack even electricity, has quickly resulted in violence dominating the South African financial centre of Gauteng. The infamy of the violent crime in the region is second to none in the world.
WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT?
The Village Scribe Association was founded in 2008 to investigate ways in which ICTs could advance development in mainly rural marginalised areas and to promote projects that implemented such methods. What we have found in our years of investigation is that youth are the life and potential of such areas. Their energy and keen interest in ICTs and being connected to the rest of humanity and their peers through social networking is massive. They, like their North African brothers can lead a revolution, in rural and township areas.
This is why we developed the awareNet software and social network. Built for low-connectivity settings and mesh networks, awareNet equips learners with an appreciation for collaboration and teamwork at an early age. It harnesses their keen interest in ICTs and under the tutelage of trainers and champions, connects the youth with itself.
The world needs more socially aware enterprises to counter the imbalance in taking care of public goods that has overtaken the world in past decades. Adam Smith the original capitalist philosopher noted that market economies have little incentive to look after public goods such as clean air, or a strong vibrant environment for our youth. Only strong social values and faith in teamwork can redress the current imbalance.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?