This morning Ramon Thomas and I met with the national coordinator of Child Line who is interested in the counselling project using MXit. The meeting was fruitful as we discussed at the endless possibilities and advantages of having such a technology for the Child Line counselling centres. We will resume our conversations around implementation after the Digital Citizen Indaba conference and take this opportunity further.
After a short visit to the Eastern Cape and sharing some of the work we are doing in Cape Town on the Cape Flats, we had and amazing response from young people who needed this service as they are facing the problem of alcohol abuse in their homes and communities. We have acquired 15 subscribers from the Eastern Cape in a space of a few days. Also have a meeting with Zara Nicholson from the Weekend Argus this Wednesday about the MXit project.
Tonight I will be joining Ramon Thomas from NETucation for a talk at St. Cyprians Girls' School. He is also a speaker at the 27Dinner tomorrow night. Definitely not to be missed.
A week later after meeting with the editor, Chantel Erfort, of the Independent Community Newspapers, we got her support for our project. We also got front page coverage about the project in the Athlone News. This will bring the MXit counselling service to the public attention after testing for such a long time.
We are also in the process of training more reconstructed individuals who have conquered their addictions.
I've been invited to meet with the editor of the Independent Community Newspapers about the MXit counselling for substance abuse. This will be the first time that we will promote the service other than by means of word of mouth.
The service also recorded its 100th subscriber to this service. We already have a success story of a young lady who is being reconstructed and this service being part of that process. This is what it is all about, using the technology to make a change in our communities be it virtual or physical.
We will have 4 papers presented at the 10th ZA-WWW 2008 conference after it has been accepted for this peer-reviewed conference. Two of the research papers addresses the use of social networking and blogging as a means to empower citizens in Communities in Tension (CiTs). This is wonderful news as we will have an opportunity to share some of our findings at this conference next month.
Through the facebook and twitter technologies members of the impact team find it as a means to reach out and connect with others part of their social network. It is interesting how they support one another using these technologies. Finding use for it within their context.
The increase of gang and drug activity on the Cape Flats in the Western Cape is causing tension within communities . These activities have a negative impact on citizens in these communities and contribute to a sense of helplessness. A community with tension can be described as “a community where the well being of its citizens is threatened”. Reconstruction or rehabilitation of ex-drug addicts are challenging due to communities with tension not being able to empower these citizens or not willing to be rehabilitated. This presents the opportunity for the use of technology as part of the reconstructing of these citizens.
Research has found that there is an increase in mobile instant messaging (MIM) amongst teenagers in South Africa . Many of whom are using MXit, a popular South African (MIM), as their primary tool for messaging . Collaborating with a local NPO, Impact Direct (041-188-NPO), we started a project to provide a platform on a mobile platform to offer advice, support and frequently asked questions (FAQs) for people impacted by drug and substance abuse. The main objective was to meet the youth on a platform that they are comfortable with as a first point of contact where they can express themselves, receive support and advice on the issue of drug and substance abuse.
We decided to equip ex-drug addicts with technology skills and under the supervision of Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and Impact Direct these reconstructed ex-drug addicts are in a position to communicate with the contacts using mobile technology giving them real answers from their own personal life experiences. This was the birth of Drug Advice Support (DAS). Not only will support be offered to substance abusers but also families, people affected by the problem. The Drug Advice Support (DAS) service also connects the contact with personal support organisations, other drug rehabilitation facilities in the local area where the contact is located when the person is ready for face to face counselling and support. To access the DAS service the user has to add our contact to their mobile MIM profile.
I can't believe that after a few weeks of introducing the MXit counselling for substance abuse we already reached 50 subscribers. It is great to see how people are being reached at a place where they feel comfortable. This for many people using the service will be the first step to reconstruction.