Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dell SA Development Fund coming to our rescue

Last week Friday DELL SA Development Fund came to our rescue by delivering our Servers and laptops for the Drug Advice Support project. This donation means that we can extend our service hours now from Monday to Thursday (4-6pm)and Saturday (4-6pm). The Athlone Living Lab (ALL) would like to thank DELL SA Development Fund for this contribution that would make a difference in the lives of many individuals who are impacted by the scourge of substance abuse.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Latest Media List

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.


Business Week (20 August 2009)

New Scientist (19 August 2009)

Mobile Active (27 July 2009)

mLearning Africa (17 June 2009)

The Times (15 June 2009)

My Broadband News (15 June 2009)

Mail & Guardian (12-18 June 2009)

Cape Times (10 June 2009)

CPUT Online Publishing (3 June 2009)

The Herald (30 May 2009)

The Weekend Post (30 May 2009)

East Coast News (April 2009)

Athlone News (8 April 2009)

NMMU (20 March 2009)

Digital Edge (March 2009)

Die Burger (10 March 2009)

Cosmopolitan (March 2009)

Daily News (6 Feb 2009)

Fair Lady (January 2009)

The Vessel Newspaper 11 January 2009

Today Magazine (January 2009)


The Weekend Post (20 December 2008)

Athlone News (17 December 2009)

Weekend Post (29 Nov 2008)

Die Burger

People's Post

Die Son (Cape) 4 November 2008

Witness (4 November 2008)


Biz Community

NGO Pulse news

IT Web (9 October 2008)

Business Daily


Athlone News (1 October 2009)

Die Burger

Athlone NewsPg3_20Aug2008

CPUT Website

Storypot: A writer's online journal

Pambazuka News

News from Africa

IPP Media

Debt Counselling as close as your cellphone

Debt Breaker featured today in The Herald and Weekend Post newspapers in the Eastern Cape as we continue expanding our services to consumers accross the country. The article “Debt counselling as close as your cellphone” already managed to attract many consumers to the service and we know this is only the beginning.

YOUR fancy top-of-the-range cellphone might be able to help you in all sorts of ways these days, but you probably never imagined it could offer debt counselling.

However, with the global credit crunch and South Africa now officially in recession, you might only have to look as far as your cellphone to find answers to your debt problems.

A South African entrepreneur has developed an innovative cellphone service called Debt Breaker which can be used by over-indebted consumers to access advice and support remotely through MXit, Google Talk, Fring, Nimbuzz, Mig33 and other chat applications.
Read the article here

First Week with the new Drug Advice Support (DAS)

Today was the first week with our new DAS hours and it was interesting to see the number of conversations and users who were seeking support for substance abuse or social related issues. The new DAS hours of operation are Mondays to Thursdays and Saturdays 4 to 6pm. The following were the number of users per day for this week:

Monday: 93 users
Tuesday: 114 users
Wednesday: 86 users
Thursday 101 users
Saturday 59 users

The number of users serviced this week were a total of 453 users. The numbers were lower than our normal average per day but the conversations were more meaningful as we had a number of serious users who were in desperate need. The new hours are all thanks to the DELL South African Development Fund's donation that we received last week.

The Do's and Don'ts of Social Media

You 2.0: Three Steps to being a Socialite

This morning I was privileged to join the Reconstructed Session presenting a talk titled You 2.0: Three steps to being a Socialite. The key team steps shared with the guys was that they have to Create, Share and Engage as part of being a socialite.

Seeing the New Reconstructed group enaging with social media (See picture above) and starting this journey is really excited under the leadership of Craig Ross and Brent Williams.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Athlone Living Lab: Community Meeting

Last night a team of the Athlone Living Lab (ALL) had an opportunity to share the vision and heart of the ALL project at an open Community Meeting with the Athlone Government Counselor present as well(See picture)

The room was filled with an air of excitement as it filled up with members from the local Bridgetown community. We had Brent Williams (part of the reconstructed team and community developer), Reagen Allen (local entrepreneur) and myself sharing more about the Athlone Living Lab. We presented the vision of ALL as well as some of the projects available to the community members for engagement. It was encouraging to hear the interest in ALL by the community and we know that we are about to take this initiative to the next level.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Learning 2.0: Panel Discussion

The video below gives a good background to educators who are considering using Web 2.0 tools to engage with students.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Drug Advice Support: Service stats

Today we've achieved 201 subscribers through the Drug Advice Support (DAS) system and served 2314 messages.

Below is an extract of a paper we are writing about the DAS system which will give you an idea of the number of subscribers we currently servicing:

"The results extracted from DAS solution shows that such a system can be useful for relieving tension. Advisors have the capacity to help more people (n=27) in a 2 hour session than that of help-lines (n=4) (Impact Direct Ministries, 2009). Since its inception and at the end of April 2009 DAS served approximately 87,624 messages amongst its 6,377 subscribers. A total of 16,609 conversations between persons in need and advisors took place over a period of 186 hours of being online and available.

During a DAS session, 2 hours duration, the average number of conversations is 178 which equates to an average of 943 messages. This is normally managed on average by 5 advisors using the DAS system. The maximum number of conversations achieved was 471 and this was the week after the appearance on national television. The least number of conversations was 21 and this was due to running the service on a public holiday. The most messages exchanged in a DAS session were 3678 with a minimum of 234 messages.

Majority of the conversations (62.3%) was related to substance abuse issues. (See Figure 1) shows the distribution related to substance types with the most popular drug query being “Tik” or “Crystal Meth”. General drug queries were where subscribers just needed generic information about the services and general substance abuse queries."

The above stats is a clear indication of how technology can be used to support communities in tension.

Social Media to live your dream

Well as I was listening to many young people talking about their dreams it reminded me of how many people are able to share and live their dreams using Social Media. The above video is a classic example of how a woman with a dream got more than what she bargained for when she entered a singing competition. The use of social media indicates the use of spreading a message and engaging with the masses. The above video achieved the following stats in a space of 6 weeks(source: Viral Video Cart):

81 duplicate videos
13,345 blog posts (+1 this post)

Surely this is a good example of the power of sharing a message and joining the conversation using social media.

Reconstructing Community Spaces: Athlone Living Lab

The presentation below is what I will present tomorrow at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology Informatics and Design Research Day. It is a brief introduction to the Athlone Living Lab.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Athlone Living Lab: Project Definition Workshop

Today we've had our first meeting with stakeholders of the Athlone Living Lab (ALL) Working to establish the best strategy for sustaining the current projects embedded in ALL. It was clear that key to the project plan definition would be to come up with suitable business models for sustainability. Having all the stakeholders together was so refreshing knowing that the journey of the Athlone Living Lab has only begun.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Reconstructed PodCasts for Empowerment

Here are the podcasts by the Reconstructed Team:

Episode 1: In the beginning (Brent, Monique, Craig, Reagen and Bradley)

Episode 2:Prof. Alexander address at Reconstructed Graduation 2008

Episode 3:The story of Craig Ross

Episode 4:The story of Brent Williams

Episode 5:The story of Monique Theron

Episode 6:The story of Bradley Naidoo

Episode 7:The story of Reagan Allen

You can follow the reconstructed on Twitter (@reconstructed)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Twitter integration into our Advice Support Network

As we continually try and serve more with our Advice Support Network we've now integrated Twitter into our system providing our support services to users on this micro-blogging platform. To add us via twitter for Drug Advice Support (DAS) follow @advicesupport and Debt Breaker follow @DebtBreakerZa.

We are excited to offer these services to our Twitter users.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Video: Did You Know?

This was presented at the NetProphet Event in Cape Town today and set the platform for the discussion that followed.

Featured on Interactive Cultures

It was a great privilege to be a guest blogger on the Interactive Cultures Blog that is being managed by Jon Hickman. The post "A Letter from Cape Town" was published yesterday and you can read it here

Abstract from post:

"Marlon Parker is a South Africa based social media educator. He is visiting the UK, including Birmingham, in July 2009. Ahead of his planned visit to Interactive Cultures, he was good enough to send us an overview of some of the social media activity he has been involved with in and around Cape Town.

With the world being LinkedIn, everyone sharing content over the web and embracing friends and foe alike on FaceBook and Twitter we decided to see how we can take the phenomena of Social Media to Communities in Cape Town, South Africa...."

Net Prophet the perfect wake-up call

Alarm went off at 6am and it was my wake up call to attend the First Net Prophet Event in Pinelands, Cape Town. With winter weather outside and still tired I was hesitant and very close to not attending but with such an interesting line up and having the "Prophets", "Gurus" and peers of Web, Social and Mobile Media all in the same room, that was enough reason for me to at least take time to learn from their experiences.

Upon arrival hundreds were gathered at the Old Mutual Business Park in Pinelands, Cape Town and it seemed as if an interesting day was lying ahead by seeing the fellow attendees present. Platform was well set by Rob Gilmour from RAMP Foundation and with Arthur Goldstuck, Peter Flynn, Herman Heunis, Henk Kleynhans, Dave Duarte, Mike Stopforth, Hannes van Rensburg, Andrew Smith and Charl Norman in the wings it was an event that I am glad I didn't miss.

My specific focus was around how the social web can be used to not just be monetised but also sustain and support social initiatives. With many of the speakers emphasizing the importance of mobile in a South African Context and more specifically the increased number of possibilities this provides for a developing country.

Highlights of the conference was that "The digital revolution levels the playing field and that the Internet should be taken to the masses", with "Mobile, blogs, video content, social networking and Podcasts having huge media revenue growth" this opens the doors for organisations to also explore the platforms where huge corporations are placing their investments. Software would also become more service oriented according to the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. This offers businesses more an operating expenses budget allocation than capital expenditure. Herman Heunis shared how MXit applied the philosophy 'We do not compete, we create' and how the right mix with motivation allowed them to become giants in the Mobile Instant Messaging space in Africa. How to approach Venture Capitalist (VC) and harnessing the Social Web were other highlights to this great Net Prophet event.

Well all in all from a social change perspective I do believe that Net Prophet was the perfect wake up call.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Breaking Barriers with Debt Breaker

Last night we had our first radio interview on 1Africa media sharing more about Debt Breaker and its advantages to consumers. With many being over-indebted and being able to get advice and support via mobile and web technologies it interesting to see how this will be accepted in other African countries that was listening in to the interview. For more information about Debt Breaker visit the website or the mobi site.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Technology a foundation for Economic Growth Model

Tekes Image
While researching business models for social innovation and sustainability I came accross a slide that I saw at a conference which reminded me that Growth can be found in Education, Research and Technology. The empowerment of a Community in Tension (CiT) has its roots in economic growth which according to the image above includes Education, Research and Technology. This is interesting because the factors that causes tension in local communities are lack of education, social inequality, lack of appropriate use and access of technology and lack of economic development. Taking the new growth model further we believe that economic growth is not only rooted in education, research and technology but also social equality in a South African context. This will contribute to the well-being of citizens which would stabilise the Community in Tension (CiT). Download the CiT research paper here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

MXit Information for parents

Due to many parents asking for advice about what they should do for their children who are on MXit I've listed a post from the MXit Website that serves as advice for parents:


The Internet has brought with it the proverbial good, the bad and the ugly and since MXit uses a small part of the Internet, we would like you to be aware of the following:

Long before MXit appeared on the horizon in May 2005, most mobile phones had the ability to search the web via the default browser on the phone. This gives your child access to basically everything and anything that is available on the Internet. Unlike the PC world, where a myriad of software products are available to protect minors, the mobile phone world has yet to implement such safety nets.

Internet dangers include access to highly undesirable material, access to chat rooms, mobile phone viruses, etc.
If you do not have the technological knowledge to alert your children to these dangers, and feel that they are too young to cope with them, perhaps it is not a good idea to give your children mobile phones until you know exactly how the phones operate.


* MXit is an instant messaging (IM) program that allows all our registered users to communicate with each other inexpensively, if they give consent.
* MXit is not a web browser and as such cannot be used to access pornographic or other adult sites, or adult chat rooms.
* The majority of our traffic is person-to-person where a user needs to add a contact before he/she can send a message or receive a message from a person - very similar to SMS.
* As part of community building, we have created a number of chat rooms where we have given our registered users the ability to meet other people. We continually strive to make the chat rooms safer and more user-friendly, but any chat room has an element of risk associated and safety is dependent on the conduct of the user.
* If you are of the opinion that your child needs his/her mobile phone for safety reasons, then it is a good idea to disable the default web browser or GPRS or 3G via a request to your service provider to ensure Internet surfing is not possible.
* Can you disable GPRS (or 3G) on the phone and still use MXit? Unfortunately not - so the choice is yours.


In order to try and minimize the inherent risks, we have put the following precautions in place

* All teenagers' chat rooms (Like TeenZone) have profanity filters (this means that swear words are replaced by ##### symbols).
* A network of MXit and community moderators assiduously monitors the rooms on an ad hoc basis.
* No user profiles, which normally include personal details and photographs, are stored. There are many chat rooms on the Internet that do store user profiles.
* To further ensure that you have a safe online experience in the chat rooms, MXit has created dynamic chat zones - which allows a user to create his/ her own private chat room, and invite friends to participate in a private chat. Such rooms are password protected and only those in possession of the password can enter the rooms. Our chat rooms are age restricted. When you register on MXit you are asked to log your age. This age will allow you entrance to only certain of the chat rooms - which are restricted to protect our younger users.
* The MXit chat room acts as a cocoon. The user remains completely anonymous while in the chat room, and as long as he/she does not puncture this cocoon by revealing any personal information (including information about friends and family), he/she remains safe in his/her anonymity.
* Conversation in public chat rooms is viewed by the community - every person can see every message and can respond.
* Users can at any time leave a chat room or type the .ignore command to ignore someone who is abusive.
* If a user wants to report abusive behaviour he/she can type .rat and then the last 30 lines of conversation will be sent to a MXit moderator to act upon.
* Every time users enter the chat rooms we remind them to keep their personal information confidential.
* None of our chat room names or descriptions has any sexual slant and we strongly discourage any form of discrimination and/or explicit sexual chat.
* By using our website, users can report abuse.
* We publish safe chatting tips in a number of places on our website and forum.
* A shorter version of safe chatting tips is built into the MXit phone application and users are constantly reminded to view it.


1. Keep your MXit password (PIN) secret and ensure it is at least 8 digits long and not an obvious choice.
2. Change your password immediately if you suspect someone is using your account.
3. Never reveal or send your password to anyone – MXit will never ask for your password.
4. Do not let your phone be used by someone else without you being present.
5. Never reveal any personal information such as your phone number, MXit pin, residential address or school address while in a chat room. This also goes for revealing personal information about your friends and family to strangers.
6. Never accept an invitation from a stranger on MXit – simply deny the invitation if it is someone you don’t know.
7. Always be aware the people you are talking to on MXit, or in any internet chat room, may not be who they say they are.
8. Keep your online relationships online! Even if you think you know your contacts well enough, we still strongly advise that you DO NOT physically meet with strangers. Pedophiles and other offenders are clever; they sometimes spend months gaining their victims’ trust before asking them to meet with them.
9. Let the MXit support team know of any suspicious behavior. Send an e-mail to or post it on the MXit forum at
10. Do not download any fake versions of MXit. To download MXit for your mobile, go to and for your PC go to

* Always tell a loved one where you are going, who you are meeting, and when you will be back.
* Meet in a public place.
* Ideally, take a friend with you and have the other person do the same.
* Do not invite anyone to your home or go to their home. Keep your distance until you feel you know them well enough.
* Take your mobile phone along, and make sure it's fully charged and has airtime. Get someone to call you at a pre-arranged time to check that everything is OK. This person can also act as your alibi, giving you an excuse to leave if necessary.

We, at MXit, will continually strive to make the MXit world a safer place"
Source:(MXit Lifestyle Team)