Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Year of Reconstruction

Today as we end our year of Reconstruction a new journey lies ahead as we continue the use of technology to empower communities. Having completed part of this exciting journey it is also an opportunity to reflect on how this journey has changed my life and the lives of many others.

How can I ever forget the first day 23 February 2008 when we gathered at CPUT for the first time and the room was full of uncertainty not knowing how long we'll be running this course or what to expect. This year went beyond our wildest dreams and I believe it is the beginning of great things ahead. This year has had its ups and downs, as we unfortunately had 2 of our members not completing the year with us. But that was never going to make our Reconstructed team despondent. They were still persevering under the pressures and decided to complete this year. Not only did we empower the Reconstructed Team but we also launched Mom 2.0 (mothers in the community being empowered with the use of technology). We've had so much fun while learning.We've also had the privilege of meeting great individuals who shared their knowledge with us this year. Special thanks to Rafiq, Ramon, Johan, Gerhard, Nils, Micke and Pam who really empowered the Reconstructed team.

We also presented at the ZA WWW 2008 conference (won best poster of the conference award), Highway Africa Conference, Huddlemind's Nomadic Dinner, 27Dinner in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth just but to name but a few. Another highlight was when we had the opportunity to be live on SABC2's Morning Live on 24th October 2008. This was such a wonderful experience for many of the team as we believe that all our hard work was finally being acknowledged. Not only did we get some attention from the media but we also had the honour of gathering with peers in the Social Media industry.

Seeing how lives were transformed through the use of technology was encouraging. When we started the Drug Advice and Support (DAS) we never expected that it would have such an impact on a nation. Since its inception we've already had more than 50,000 messages, almost 11,000 conversations and closing in on 5000 contacts to date. This in itself was incredible as we began offering advice and support for hundreds of young people on their mobile phones, Tuesdays and Thursdays between 3 and 5pm. The Reconstructed blog also continued to grow as the team increased their contributions with the goal of reaching 1000 blog posts by the end of 2008 (The good news is that they've achieved this goal read all about it here).

The technologies we've used this year and that proved to be useful in the Social Media for Social Change (SMSC) course were:
- Blogging (Using blogger)
- Social Networking (FaceBook and Ning)
- Micro-blogging (Twitter and Spoink)
- Instant Messageging (Google Chat, MXit, The Grid)
- Web Literacy
- VOIP (Skype and Fring)
- PodCasting

The climax of the year was when we had The Reconstruction graduation 12 December 2008 at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Seeing all the excited graduates and proud parents, family was such a wonderful moment for me personally. We also launched our Podcasts and Angel project at the graduation which was just a cherry on the top.

Well with 2008 almost coming to an end we are looking forward to 2009 and we would like to thank everyone who has contributed and shown interest in the Reconstructed project. We will continue on this journey as we empower communities in tension using technology.

We would like to wish you and your families a wonderful and blessed New Year for 2009.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

DAS on Christmas Day

Today while the world is celebrating Christmas Day and enjoying all the festivities, we decided to have a Drug Advice Support (DAS)for those who are in need. Not only were we able to use technology to ensure people have a lifeline on Christmas Day it was also a good opportunity for the DAS advisers just to relax and reflect how good the year has been.

Although it was a worldwide holiday we still had more than 1200 messages coming through to the DAS service. We spoke to 130 people in the 2hour session and I would like to thank the advisers for sacrificing their time with the families in order to use technology to bring about a change in the lives of many others.

Merry Christmas and GOD Bless

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Changing the World One Tweet at a Time

With the rise of Twitter in the world of Web2.0 it has been interesting to see how people have used this Micro-blogging social tool. Being used from conversations to reporting, marketing to publishing and generating traffic to you website, to just share information with your network. With the Reconstructed we've decided to use Twitter as a means of reconstructing ex-drug addicts and ex-gang members.

The young men and women were exposed to twitter and given the right to use it in a way they feel would benefit them best. They began using twitter for conversations with one another, sharing positive stories with one another, encouraging each other and to share information relevant to substance abuse and their communities. They also used it for reporting in order for others following them to keep track of how they are feeling or what they busy doing. Twitter has become part of their support structure and being used to leave positive footprints in the world. Not only is Twitter being used to support themselves but they also using it to reach out to other Tweeple who needs to hear a Tweet of hope. They are really changing the World one Tweet at a time...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Help with social problems on MXit

Yesterday Angel was in the news again after being launched a week ago. An article by Yolandé Hayward from The Weekend Post in Port Elizabeh "Help with Social Problems in MXit":

AFTER successfully using MXit to counsel youngsters with drug abuse problems, a young entrepreneur is now using this networking tool to equip them with knowledge on various social more

Friday, December 19, 2008

Using Free and Open Source Software to fight drug abuse

An article appeared in the UWC campus newsletter...

"An increase in gang and drug activity on the Cape Flats in the Western Cape Province has been causing tension within communities. These activities have a negative impact on citizens in these communities and contribute to a sense of helplessness. Reconstruction or rehabilitation of ex-drug addicts and ex-gangsters are challenging due to communities with tension not being able to empower these citizens or the addicts themselves being unwilling to be rehabilitated. This presented the opportunity for the use of technology as part of the helping substance abusers to rebuild their lives.

A project called DAS@Mxit was the brain child of Marlon Parker, an IT lecturer from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). The project uses mobile and web technologies, including the popular cell phone chat application Mxit. In collaboration between CPUT and UWC's Free Software Innovation Unit in ICS, a system was developed to offer counselling, advice, frequently asked questions for people impacted by drug and substance abuse. DAS@Mxit is aimed at (but not limited to) MXit users. This allows a user to send and receive text and multimedia messages to and from PCs and phones via the Internet, rather than with standard SMS technology." ...

Paul and Wesley, key architects and developers on the DAS project (

Reconstructed Podcast episode 3: The Story of Craig Ross

With the festive season upon us, many are thinking about what new gadget or technology will make the perfect gift for Christmas. With the reconstructed graduation a week ago and the launch of our Podcast series we are releasing Episode 3 of the Reconstructed Podcast, The Story of Craig Ross, which can be downloaded here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

DAS call

Here one of the Mom 2.0 ladies, Jenny Petersen, calls a lady who chatted to one of our advisors for support about a social issue. This all took place within our Drug Advice Support (DAS) session. The session today also produced 3106 messages in our session and DAS will be online Christmas day to assist those om need.

Posted by ShoZu

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tweetup in nature

Today I joined the group of The Reconstructed for a day out in Wellington. After an exciting year working with these amazing men and women it was good just to have a relaxing day to reflect and plot new ideas for the Reconstructed project. We having lots of fun with sport activities (using twitter name on soccer field), swimming, eating and ofcourse having mini tweetups. The holidays are here and lots to look forward to.

Posted by ShoZu

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

DAS celebrates 10 000 conversations

Today Drug Advice Support (DAS)(using mobile instant messaging to offer advice and support for people at risk) has reached an incredible milestone of more than 10000 conversations(10 081 to be exactly) since our inception almost 5 months ago. This is a wonderful achievement as we've received more than 40 000 messages with over 4000 subscribers to our service. The use of technology with people who cares has made it possible to reach so many people across our nation and this is only the beginning. This service has proved that lives can be changed and that there is hope for our young people as we fight this battle of substance abuse and other social ills an instant message at a time.

Angel on MXit to support HIV/AIDS in South Africa

With the increase of AIDS deaths in South Africa, as part of the Angel project we decided to make relevant information available to users on MXit.

"South Africa is currently experiencing one of the most severe AIDS epidemics in the world. At the end of 2007, there were approximately 5.7 million people living with HIV in South Africa, and almost 1,000 AIDS deaths occurring every day."...

With technology in our hands we are able to empower those who are affected by HIV/AIDS and see how we can bring about the reconstruction of our nation through education on every possible platform. We hope with information and contact details at their fingertips on Angel (we will expand this over the next few weeks) that this will be a step in the right direction in educating our youth.

How to access Angel on MXit:

- Go to Menu
- Contacts
- Add Contacts
- MXit Services
- Add the following (Service Name: Angel, Nickname: Angel)
- Accept Contact

Monday, December 15, 2008

Opening Address at Reconstructed Graduation 2008

With such alot of excitement around the Reconstrcuted graduation, Prof. Alexander, HOD Information Technology at CPUT, gave a moving opening address that is available for download here.

Find your Angel on MXit

Last Friday, 12 December 2008, at the graduation of The Reconstructed we launched a new 24hour service "Angel". The Angel project on MXit was birthed out of the need that many of our young people need to be informed about the dangers of substance abuse on a platform that they will be able to interact with. Angel is a collaboration between CPUT, MXit and Impact Direct that provides MXit users with information concerning: substance abuse, HIV/Aids, Abuse, depression, stress and coping.

Each of these topics are then further explored. For example Substance Abuse have topics such as "What is Substance Abuse?, What is Addiction?, Type of Substances, Stages of drug dependency, Signs of Drug Use and categories of drugs. Under the Type of substances Angel gives more details about the most common drugs and this will be updated on a regular basis. Each of these substances are then further broken down. Each drug will be described and discussed (Street names, how it is used, characteristics, short term effects, long term effects and withdrawal symptoms).

Other than just giving more information about the various topics Angel also provide a "Find your Angel" service which gives users of Angel contact numbers to various services in the different provinces. We realised that many people don't know where to go to for help when facing certain social issues and we're trying to help people especially our youth with the info in a way that they are comfortable with.

Angel is an additional service to DAS (Drug Advice Support which only runs Tue and Thu 3-5pm) and runs 24/7 and no cost involved to subscribe to the service. We are excited to see how Angel will be used to change lives accross our nation.

How to access Angel on MXit:

- Go to Menu
- Contacts
- Add Contacts
- MXit Services
- Add the following (Service Name: Angel, Nickname: Angel)
- Accept Contact

Saturday, December 13, 2008

First Reconstructed PodCast

As part of the Reconstructed Graduation we launched our first official Podcast with the help of Jayne Morgan from Podcart, who did an awesome job with our reconstructed team capturing the essence of what we do in Communities In Tension (CiT).

Our first podcast gives an introduction to 5 of the Reconstructed team whose lives have been reconstructed and who's using technology now to empower their communities. This podcast will impact your life and its amazing to see how technology can be used to transform the lives of individuals. TO download our first Podcast go to Impact Direct.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Reconstructed Graduation 2008

Today Impact Direct had the privilege celebrating with the Reconstructed graduates as they've successfully completed a year of Social Media training. Not only was it wonderful to see what they've achieved in such a short space of time but the atmosphere at the graduation was such a wonderful experience that many would agree that this year has been special and an inspiration to many.

The graduation was opened by the dean of Faculty of Informatics and Design, Prof. Johannes Cronje, who welcomed the graduates, family, friends and colleagues. Pastor Roger Petersen followed with a prayer not only for the graduation but for every young person who needs hope roaming the streets and in our communities in Cape Town. The Reconstructed project also launched two new services namely their first podcast (you can download it right here under multimedia) and the "Angel Service" on MXit. I followed by sharing a little about the year that has passed (will post soon) and then the moment we all waited for, THE RECONSTRUCTED GRADUATION.

Every graduate made us all proud, not only the people who were present but surely they are a beacon of hope for every person who needs that light in their darkness.

So congratulations to all our graduates: Brent Williams, Clinton Liederman, Craig Ross, Jerome Mias, Michael Abrahams, Ricardo Johnson, Clive-marcus Evertse, Jason Martin, Kyle Jonck, Jerod Aspelling, Monique Theron, Shameez Liederman, Nazier Fortune and Bradley Naidoo.

Also special prizes went to Craig Ross (Best Blogger), Clinton Liederman (Best Micro-blogger), Jerome Mias (Mobile Blogger), Kyle Jonck (Twitster "Twitter Gangster"), Jason Martin (Most Innovative Blogger) and Brent Williams (Drug Advice Support [DAS] Ambassador). Special thanks to all the sponsors Media 24, Springleap, CPUT, Impact Direct and everyone who contributed to this extraordinary year. May GOD bless you as we look forward to the Reconstructed Intake of 2009.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

MXit Angel Project

After weeks of working on the Angel Project today we finally started with the testing of this service. This service will be launched soon and will offer people the opportunity to have access to help 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Will keep you updated as we will be launching this soon.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fair Lady January 09 Issue: Counselling a button away

Drug Advice Support is on Page 24 of the January 2009 Issue of Fair Lady Magazine. This was part of the launch of the afro optimist: Why South Africa is the best country for you to be in right NOW. The extract of the article is below but be sure to grab your copy of Fair Lady January 2009 Issue.

Counselling, a button away

Help for teen drug addicts, is now (literally) at their fingertips, thanks to the Drug Advice and Support at MXit (DAS@MXit) project, which uses the instant messaging service MXit for counselling. The motivation to start DAS came from seeing young people die and families broken because of the scourge of drugs,” says DAS founder Marlon Parker, an IT lecturer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Nearly 4000 people have already joined. DAS volunteers refer recovering addicts to counseling or rehabilitation centres in their area. Despite endorsements from national government and MXit, DAS@MXit lacks adequate resources and needs funding. More info: mail , call (021) 637 4037 or see

Thank you Fair Lady for the sharing the story of DAS in your publication and we trust that many more lives will be touched because of your contribution. You can download the article here

We are in the Media

Below find a list of links to online news, portals and blogs about the reconstruction project. We need to spread the word that technology can be used to make a difference in the lives of people.

The Herald (30 May 2009)

The Weekend Post (30 May 2009)

Athlone News (8 April 2009)

Daily News (6 Feb 2009)

The Vessel Newspaper 11 January 2009

The Weekend Post (20 December 2008)

Weekend Post (29 Nov 2008)

Die Burger

People's Post

Witness (4 November 2008)


Biz Community

NGO Pulse news

Business Daily


Die Burger

Athlone NewsPg3_20Aug2008

CPUT Website

Storypot: A writer's online journal

Pambazuka News

News from Africa

IPP Media

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pam Sykes with Mom2.0

Pam Sykes with the Mom 2.0 and Reconstructed Group. Taking them through the writing skills of blogging. The importance of the Story is what should be shared. Telling your stories from the heart will have a big impact.

Posted by ShoZu

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Drug Advice Support

Some of the Reconstructed Team offering Drug Advice and Support to people in need using Mxit. Today we had a good day with more than 2000 messages. The system is also more stable and we are testing our remote logins that seems to be working well. Thank you to all the guys for their dedication to DAS

Posted by ShoZu

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Monique busy with Cosmo telephone interview

Monique Theron sharing her story with Cosmopolitan. Watch her in March09 edition

Posted by ShoZu

Skype and Fring with the Reconstructed

This morning we had our last session with the reconstructed team and we explored the use of Skype and Fring as a means of reconstructing lives. The technology is only the facilitator in this process and many of the team realised that having access to Skype allows them the opportunity to connect with many others accross the globe

Posted by ShoZu

DAS in the Weekend Post in Port Elizabeth

The Reconstructed project and DAS appeared in the regional news paper, The Weekend Post, today. The wonderful article written by Yolande Hayward, can be read here

Friday, November 28, 2008

Monique at Work

Monique one of our young ladies busy Micro-blogging. She will appear in March 09 Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Posted by ShoZu

Networking and 27 Dinner in Port Elizabeth

I had a very exciting trip to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape to establish a network with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) for using technology for community empowerment. In collaboration with NMMU we hope to expand the DAS system in to Eastern Cape. Will keep you updated on its progress.

I was also invited as a speaker by host Ramon Thomas from Netucation at the 27Dinner in Port Elizabeth which was held at the Algoa Yacht Club and had the privilege of meeting many interesting people. It is good to see the interest in Social Media in the Eastern Cape and I believe it wont be long when we'll see an increase in the use of social media in various parts of the Eastern Cape from the most affluent to rural.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Reconstructed Session: The Essence of Micro-Blogging

Saturday morning we had an interesting session at CPUT with Rafiq and Gerhard who shared the essence of micro-blogging with the Reconstructed team. Rafiq stated that the following should be considered when using Micro-blogging tools such as twitter: Focus, Consistence, Looking Outward, Look within and Conversation. His slide show is available here. After exposing the team to various twitter tools such as feedalizr it was clear that with a new outlook on how to use Micro-Blogging that the Reconstructed team will begin using this social media medium to reach out and share with as many as possible.

You can catch the the following of the Reconstruction team on twitter @Brent, @Craig, @Clinton, @Clive , @Jason, @Ricky, @Michael, @Monique, @Shameez ,@Jerod , @Gary and @Jerome

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mom2.0: Cafe Session

Posted by ShoZu

Today we had another interesting session with the ladies from the Mom2.0 project. The women are beginning to explore with social networking and especially doing well with the mobile phones. Seems as if many of them are very open to explore how they can use social media to help others.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Drug Advice Support using Technology

Today we had another successful session with DAS using MXit. In our two hour session we managed to get more than 1400 messages. The good news is that we are moving in the right direction with the development of the system as it seems to be more stable in recent sessions. We definitely excited of the prospects of what lies ahead with this project.

More interesting stats on this is that since our inception of DAS on MXit we've had over 8000 conversations and more than 20 000 messages. This is really indicating that what we're doing is needed in our communities. Special thanks to all the men and women who works endlessly on this system ensuring that many people accross our nation are being assisted.

A week of Tweets and FriendFeeds

The past week we've seen an increased use by our reconstructed team using twitter. In one week we've seen between the group almost 3000 tweets!!! Not only have they caught on the micro-blogging phenomenon but also had the privilege of sitting in a session last Saturday on FriendFeed presented by Johan Horak.

The session was how Friendfeed can be used and integrated to enhance what is already done by the Reconstructed Team. Definitely exciting opportunities lying ahead for us.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Safer MXit: Parental Control of Chatrooms

With the increased concerns from parents around their children using .MXit and going into chatrooms. The initiative by MXit to disable public chat rooms has been welcomed by the public including Child Line. According to Herman Heunis, CEO, of MXit "The merits of this have been under discussion for a very long time and we fee the time is ripe to test the water. More and more young children are being banned from MXit by their parents but unfortunately this doesn't prevent them from signing on to other Internet chat services all over the world, where they may not have the same protection as MXit provides". The parents should still be responsible and making themselves aware of this technology. If banning the technology will solve the problem, I don't know. It will leave a gap for another to take its place that might not have the same controls. We've seen over the past few months how many have been reached through MXit which has become many people's lifeline accross our nation. To date we've reached over 13 000 messages an indication that this technology has its role to play in our digital society. Read the official press release here

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tweetrepreneur: Emergence of the Twitter Entrepreneur

Seeing the advancement of micro-blogging and the expansive use of twitter it is no surprise that we see more twitter tools being developed supporting this phenomenon. Is it possible that people would be interested in what you're actually doing? At first this might sound insane but when you begin the journey of posting your first tweet, it is as if new doors open to express yourself, to stay in touch and to just listen what others are saying.

What struck me is that not only is Twitter used for social marketing, informing clients, social conversations but quite possible we could see the emergence of the Tweetrepreneur (Twitter Entrepreneur). Where this could lead to is yet to be seen as we explore possibilities of how this media could change the lives of people.

Why don't you try twitter for yourself and follow me

Mom2.0 Cafe Session Video

Friday, November 14, 2008

Meeting with Mandy Leontakianakis

I had the privilege meeting with Mandy who writes the blog Media Culture. Read her latest post about her thoughts around the Reconstruction project here.

CCFM Radio Interview

This morning I had the privilege to be interviewed on Radio CCFM 107.5. The presenter, Lynn Baker, had DAS@MXit as the topic of discussion. The interview went well as the Reconstructed Project received more publicity and support from the public.

Mom2.0 Cafe Session: FaceBook

Today the ladies all gathered at the Impact Centre to engage with an exciting Mom 2.0cafe session. After only four sessions the women have now managed to be able to send emails, blog ( and FaceBook. What an amazing achievement by women who just over a month ago had no experience with technology.

Many of them are now also to use their mobile phones to send emails, do social networking and blog. It is really exciting to see how they've developed and we know that this is only the beginning.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

DAS@MXit possible Gauteng expansion

This has been an exciting week as not only are we seeing a growing interest by the public around technology for social change but also did a few visits in Gauteng to investigate possible expansion of the DAS@MXit initiative. With already +- 4000 subscribers, more than 10 000 messages and almost 4000 conversations the DAS@MXit project is moving along nicely. Developing of the DAS@MXit system by UWC is also moving along nicely and hope to have the system stabilised within the next few weeks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

SA E-Commerce Awards 2008

I've had the privilege of being one of the judges for this year's SA E-Commerce awards and it was great to see how many companies are expanding on the functionallities of their sites to improve the virtual shopping experience. The winners can be viewed here

After an immensely successful round of voting, in which over 10,000 votes were cast, Jump shopping is proud to announce the winners of the 2008 South African E-Commerce Awards!

This year’s awards carried the same format as the previous years’ by first giving the public the opportunity to nominate their favourite South African Online stores in 20 different categories. Once a list of nominees had been published the public and a panel of Judges were given the opportunity to cast their votes.

The votes were split 49% from the public and 51% from the judges. This year’s judges were Albert Bredenhann, Andy Hadfield, Arthur Goldstuck, Charl Norman, Damaria Senne, Ferdie Bester, Henk Kleynhans, Ismail Dhorat and Marlon Parker.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What Mom 2.0 means to me

Brent and his mother at Mom 2.0

Whenever I see Brent and his mom together I'm over the moon with joy knowing that Brent is making such an impact in many people's lives. The pic you are seeing in this post is the now but it was'nt always like this. Two years ago Brent and his mom had a very different relationship where he was disempowering his mom even to a point where he would almost have physically hurt her. But seeing him now and his willingness to help others is an incredible story of how lives are reconstructed. Using technology he can now empower his mom but they can also share their stories of hope to many parents and children out there who need that glimmer of hope.

Well done Brent and Aunt Allida Williams, we are proud of what you are doing.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Today in the Burger and Radio Pulpit

Today was a much better day as we getting somewhere with our network problem with the DAS@MXit system. It seems that our bandwidth was a problem and we're now trying to get a 2gig network line. Hopefully all will be better. At least I managed to do some counselling with people online this evening.

The highlight of the day was an excellent article by Murray La Vita from Die Burger. It was a more personal look at my background but he did such an incredible job capturing everything in that short interview. You can read his column here

We also had an interview on radio pulpit this afternoon that went very well. It seems asif more people are realising that technology as an enabler can play a huge role in the lives of people.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

DAS@MXit service floods network

Today was the day that I was hoping would not emerge as our resources ran to the bone. With thousands of requests coming through our DAS@MXit system crashed and we were unable to respond to any of our users. For most of the ladies and guys who were ready to support the thousands of people across SA it was a huge disappointment as the technology was not up to the task. The lesson for many of us today was the importance of infrastructure but also support is needed when setting up an advice and support lab. We're now rapidly moving into the second phase of this project where the systems that are being developed is of utmost importance. So it is back to the drawing board for now as we continue on this journey of reconstructing lives using technology.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

DAS@MXit update and Appearance in"The Son" newspaper

Today we had another successful day with the DAS@MXit service. Although our system is still slow that we're developing with the help of a development from UWC we are definitely moving in the right direction. We are now moving rapidly towards 4000 contacts and that are being serviced. Although the volunteers and all involved are doing a great job we are yet to get any funding for this project from corporate of government. The limited resources is a factor but nothing compared to the hearts of the people involved.

We also appeared in "The Son" newspaper today giving updates to the communities about the project and allowing people to join the service. Although the journey we are travelling on is long it is exciting to many of us as we're seeing lives being reconstructed.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Reconstructed on News

After a very different day today started with a meeting with Dep of Social Development (collected letter of endorsement from Deputy Minister, DAS@MXit developers figured out the problem with the crash of server yesterday, I was welcomed with 2 interviews from local newspapers. However the day ended well with a wonderful article written by Alistair Fairweather from

Way behind or far ahead?31/10/2008 11:06 - (SA)

By: Alistair Fairweather

South Africa can be a frustrating place for us web geeks. Starved of both bandwidth and exposure to technology, our local audiences are generally two years behind the bleeding edge of Silicon Valley.

I'm not talking about the thin icing of early adopters - I'm talking about the massive cake of web users (and potential web users) for whom the Net is still largely about e-mail, chat and perhaps a little news and sport.

So while we're sipping our lattes and waxing lyrical about Twitter, OpenID and the semantic web, many South Africans are just discovering blogging for the first time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Using MXit to empower communities - BizCommunity

An article written by Sindy Peters appeared in BizCommunity today.

Using MXit to empower communities
By: Sindy Peters

Using the mobile instant messaging platform MXit, Marlon Parker, an information technology lecturer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, has over the past seven months initiated a rehabilitation programme for drug addicts in the Cape Flats region that has spread out as far as the Eastern Cape. His aim is to use technology to empower underprivileged communities in an area that is rife with poverty, unemployment, drugs and gangsterism. read more...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Today will be the test of the 3000

Today will be a landmark in the Drug Advice and Support on MXit project as we'll be testing our new DAS systems interface. After an exciting weekend and breaking the 3000 contacts barrier we are looking forward seeing what lies ahead in this journey seeing lives being transformed and reconstructed. I will keep you updated how our first session went with the new interface later today.

Monday, October 27, 2008

27 Dinner Tonight

We will be presenting at the 27Dinner event in Cape Town tonight. This is an event to network with other individuals who are engaging in technology and will be beneficial to the reconstructed project. We hope to meet more people with passion to empower communities using technology.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

DAS@MXit on Morning Live

Yesterday morning the Reconstructed project had the privilege to be on SABC 2 Morning Live. It was a great opportunity to present the Drug Advice and Support on MXit (DAS@MXit) to the rest of the nation. We never knew what implications this would have until we saw the response in our system. Within 5 minutes while being on air we had to accept more than 300 people to the service. A day later we've added more than 2000 people to our service. We should reach 3000 contacts by the end of the weekend. This means that we now have to acquire more equipment and train up more people to assist with this project to ensure that we can deliver the service we intended when starting DAS@MXit. We also have people subscribing to the service from neighbouring countries.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Reconstructed team using The Grid

The Reconstructed team have begun using The Grid after attending a presentation by Vincent_Maher. They intend using it as a means to connect but also support one another. Will keep you updated how they find this technology and using it as part of the reconstruction process.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

10th CPUT Annual Media Conference

Today the Reconstructed teamn attended the CPUT 10th Media Conference in Cape Town. The conference was hosted by the Faculty of Informatics and Design, Public Relations Department. The programme was filled with exciting speakers Charl Norman (Blueworld Communities), Melissa Attree, Tim Shier (Quirk), Vincent Maher (Vodacom),Jayne Morgan (Podcart) and Peter Greenwall (author of Logical Stupidity: Innovation by navigating through nonsense). With such a worldclass lineup it was no wonder that the conference was a success and the common thread throughout the conference was the opportunities available with Web 2.0 technologies. For many of the guys who attended it was an eye opener and many of them already started using some of the technologies that was introduced to them.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Mom 2.0 Video

Mom 2.0 sending first emails

With the buzz around the Mom 2.0 and the women who are using technology to empower other women and children, today was an exciting time for many of the ladies as they started with the first phase of their cafe sessions. One of the key elements of empowerment using technology is the Communication pillar. The first technology that we introduced to them was email. All of the ladies created a gmail email account and sent each other email by the end of their session.

This great achievement for many of them was being able to overcome their fear of technology and actually typing (even though it was slow) with no pressure at all. Seeing these ladies achieving what they did today really brought me so much joy. Even though some struggle to read and write, but with the help of other women and the reconstructed team they were able to send emails against all odds.

As we continue to expand the different ways in which the women communicate, we are keen to see how they engage with the different technologies and which tools they would prefer.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Drug Advice Support (DAS) on MXit

Nomadic Marketing Dinner

Last night I presented at the UCT Graduate School of Business Nomadic Marketing Dinner at Doppio Zero. With our hosts Dave Duarte and Max Kaizen it was an evening of networking with forward thinking individuals. I presented on the Recontructed project and how we are using various technologies with ex-drug addicts and gangsters as well as women and mothers from local communities on the Cape Flats. The technologies that has the largest impact on the reconstructed team is Blogging, MXit, FaceBook and twitter. The evening continued with exciting talks by MarkAnthony Zimmermann from the Broccoli Project and De Waal Steyn from Die Burger.

Definitely an evening well spent and looking forward to collaborations with many of the guests from the Nomadic Marketing Dinner.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Reconstructing families using Technology

This evening we did a presentation at a church in Westridge Mitchells Plain titled "Reconstructing families using technology". It was good to see so many people coming out and having an interest in technology. The talk was presented in such a way to show possibilities of how technology could be used for family reconstruction and empowerment.

The projects that were presented included:
- The reconstruction project and the reconstructed blog of the reconstructed team. One of the team members, Jerome Mias, shared his story of how he was addicted to Tik and how his life was reconstructed. He also shared what blogging did for him as part of the healing process and how he is currently using blogs as an outlet of expression. Interesting fact is that Jerome never completed school (only passed grade 8) yet the skills that he acquired through technology and how he is using to empower others are remarkable. Well done Jerome for showing us that we can use technology even when we don't have the education background to help our families and communities.

- The Drug Advice and Support on MXit (DAS@MXit) was also introduced to the audience. The room had both parents and children present and there were mixed feelings about this technology. This was an opportunity to show how this technology is being used to save lives. Brent Williams shared his testimony as a MXit counsellor and what he has experienced through the use of MXit for drug advice and support. Hearing how it impacted his life and how he could share the many stories of others who's lives have been changed through this service was well received. (We got an additional 10 contacts after the presentation to the service.

- Finally we ended with the Mom 2.0 project and showed what the plans are to empower mothers and women in the community.

Having parents, children and grandparents there was an opportunity to engage technology on all levels and see how best it could be used to reconstruct families. We hope that this talk is the first of many of its kind and with the positive feedback we know that there are lots more innovative ways how technologies could be used.