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Photos on eLearning Africa 2011 competition

If you have a chance, please have a look at our photos on the eLearning Africa page:

The Village Scribe Association submitted 5 images (with very cool descriptions!!) for the eLearning Africa Photo Competition. Please, help us to win the competition by voting for us now online! Some of the photos are quite bland until you get behind what the photographer is thinking and what the deeper significance of the photo is to the people involved and our society…

The photos are called (just click to vote and read the comment)

[1] Curiosity, awareness and motivation
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At school after dark...

[2] Solar Panels, Off-line Internet and awareNet
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Solar power for awareNet

[3] Rural SA cooperates with German University
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International collaboration!

[4] Upstarters being aware
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Upstart youth newspaper, with awareNet

[5] When power is more of a problem than owning a cell
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Wild Coast Problems...


By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: April 28th 2011 05:32

Teaching the youth that they belong …

… is one of the ideas behind aware Yet. A brilliant blog post by Paul Pereira at Tshikululu Investments (a CSI company dealing in the education sector I recently met at SEWF) expresses the need for this very plainly:

Teaching lifeskills may be more empowering than other social investments

These thoughts are what drive our awareNet programme. We have experienced the most demeaning situations which enforce in learners minds the idea of being meaningless to society, in our Eastern Cape schools. We are doing all we can to reverse this, and it starts with ourselves and they way we deal with people. Thank you, Paul!


By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: April 12th 2011 09:33

“Aware Yet?” at SEWF2011

aware Yet?

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South African youth is in general vastly un-appreciated, un-skilled and un-employed (**). Yet they are the future of our country and the hope for the nation!  Second rate schooling, apathy and lack of a master plan are the ingredients in this terrible recipe for disaster!

“aware Yet?” a campaign that the Village Scribe Association is starting in concert with the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) 2011 conference has the aim of highlighting the bilateral ignorance:
  •  On the one hand the public is unaware of the problem, or even glad to ignore it and sweep it under the carpet.
  • On the other hand, youths are unaware of their options, their rights and the possibility to make their voice heard through team work and mass action.
“aware Yet?” will also highlight the benefits of the VSA product awareNet:

By starting early and learning about the world around them using active collaboration and participation, awareNet users have a head start on their colleagues and are able to pass these skills on by thinking openly and collaboratively about their options. awareNet learners know that united they stand taller than individually, and that the world is a connected place, which can help them fulfill their dreams.

** Some Statistics: unemployment in the Eastern Cape for ages 15- 64 was 27%, StatsSA 2010, where unemployment historically in the age group 15-24 is about double that.

By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: March 31st 2011 07:42

TeleWeaver at SEWF2011

At this point in time, it is looking very much like Ron Wertlen is going to be giving sneak previews of TeleWeaver at the World Cafe at SEWF2011. All interested persons are invited to come by to the WorldCafe gatherings at lunch time and see what this future rural access software offers!!

By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: March 31st 2011 07:39

Questions to take to SEWF2011

Next week is the Social Enterprise World Forum 2011 in Johannesburg. I will be there and happy to link up.

What bothers me about VC (Venture Capital), is the “exit strategy” or simply exit. Most Venture Capital plans aim for the sale to a big multinational (notably new social enterprise funding plans, as outlined e.g. by the Young Foundation in their “Open Social” book show how this can be done differently). Some questions I take to SEWF 2011 with me are:

  • Is one not placing undue power in the hands of the multinationals through regular VC strategy?
  • Isn’t the more socially valuable exit to earn enough to buy back portions of the company from VCs, so that one can pursue and independent line, and make partnerships that don’t tie one to a particular ideology?
  • Can VC’s apply some of the social metrics (success criteria) to measure public good of the projects they support and get support from government/public bodies for this?

Ok, so you probably noticed it, I am a social entrepreneur and very concerned about ethical business practice… SEWF 2011, here we come.


By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: March 30th 2011 07:50

The Hawthorn Effect

Showing people you care, lifts morale and makes them work harder and better. It doesn’t really matter whether your long-term intervention is ICT’s health or whatever. The argumentation doesn’t quite hold for short-term relief, as when water is delivered to the thirsty.

This is something that Amartya Sen in his Development as Freedom skirts around. He is an economist, and he is used to writing to audiences which pooh-pooh such soft thinking. But reading between the lines, reading meaning into the examples he uses (often from his native India) one senses the importance of humanity, caring and interest in the actual recipients (not the machines) as highlights.

Fortunately this effect has been given a name – The Hawthorn Effect – and described in scientific terms. Finally a piece of hard science, that even economists can bite into. The cynic will say that marketers and managers can also bite into it – great motivate people to do more work for the same price. But Mr. Cynic, consider this: are the people happier than before? Probably, productive people are happy, intrinsically motivated people are happy. It’s not about the money, it’s about the feeling you take home at the end of the day. Try it out Mr. Cynic…

By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: March 22nd 2011 08:00

Village Scribe Association Blog

Funny thing, the busier one is, the more blog posts one has to write. I am now writing a blog at the Village Scribe Association too. Don't miss out on that:

http://www.dorfschreiber.org/wordpress/

Contributors include other staff of the Village Scribe Association as well as guest writers from the projects.
By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: March 7th 2011 06:38

Participation in Local Government through ICT

I am currently working on a study into the Potential to Utilize Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to Promote Inclusion, Public Participation and Accountability in Local Governance in South Africa.

Dear Reader, please take this survey:

Attitude:
  • What has your municipality done for you today? (Are you aware of the things your municipality is doing for you?)
  • Do you know the name of your ward councillor? (YES/ NO)
  • Does your municipality respond to your queries (written or telephonic), if you have any? (YES/NO)
Planning:
  • If you could easily find out what your municipality is planning for the next 5 years, would you bother to read the documentation? (YES/NO)
  • Would you be more likely to read the plan, if your neighbourhood has its own section in the plan? (YES/NO)
  • Would you be more likely to read a summary of say 5 pages? Or 1 page? (YES/NO)
Governance:
  • Would you like to be mayor for a day? (YES/NO)
  • Do you think that you can help your municipality function better? (YES/NO)
  • Would you like to be able to send SMS to your councillor and actually get a response? (YES/NO)
  • If you use Twitter, would you follow your municipality? (YES/NO)

Your local government needs you, please respond.

By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: February 17th 2011 07:14

ESTIMA Project (SAFIPA), Product Progress

Hellelujah, there is a Reed House Systems B7 Server running on my laptop. It is an Equinox 3.6.0 container running:
  • Spring 3.0.5.RELEASE
  • Spring DM 2.0.0.M1
  • Jetty Web Server 6.1.19
  • CXF 1.2
  • Active MQ 5.4.1
  • Hibernate 3.6
This is our multi-purpose middleware, on which we will be developing a new breed of technologies for rural eService access.

Am currently testing a Twitter app for the platform, which will allow Village Scribes to post their thoughts about using the software in real-time and hear what others who are using the software are saying. Of course, I am not employed as a programmer, so why the effort? Well, I am trying to figure out whether the architecture we are using to connect the Javascript based web browser front-ends (using GWT) are efficiently connected to the middleware and the data objects available there. As you may know, GWT-RPC limits the kinds of Java Objects one can pass between these layers. The result is the use of DTO's that shadow the original data objects.

TeleWeaver is as yet not locked into GWT. We also have Swing interfaces. GWT is itself fast evolving as Google tries to integrate it into Android and then on the other hand there is the solution for our version 2.0: Spring Roo. Spring Roo is a very young technology, which I can see us embracing fully. This year is going to be fun!

A lot of our functionality is duplicated in JBoss, especially with their new loading method, which is so similar to OSGi, and of course the SEAM servlet building technology. I wonder who will have the smaller and more efficient footprint by the end of the project, 15 Nov 2011?
By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: February 17th 2011 07:06

A thought for the "Newly Connected"

Last Christmas, Manuel Castells led to thoughts about the tradition of giving and the 1950's developmental theory of trickle-down (i.e., building up power points in an under-developed society, which will lead ultimately to trickling down of the capital within the society targeted for development). Castells' theorises that the Net ignores parts of society which are irrelevant from a capitalist point of view (they have no capital). Castells underlines the modern downfall of trickle-down, to my mind. IT, Business Process Management and corporate efficiency have worked toward plugging "leaks" and concentrating capital in "approved" conduits. In the meantime, charities (many cashing in on corporate social responsibility programmes, that have become necessary) continue to be a large part of the trickle-down effect and of development work. Many have a good methodology, but on the whole, the situation represents a double failure, as trickling via charity can be disempowering and dependence building.

An interesting variable in this formula are the "newly connected": those financially disempowered persons (pecuniarily poor) who will be connected to the Net in 2011. The ITU expects that over a billion people will be accessing the Web via mobile phones by 2015, but I think that it's going to be more like 2 billion. The reason for this will be that web services such as M-Money will be clothed in simple UI's so that people will be using the Web, without knowing it. This is very similar to the phenomenon of people who use email or MXiT without knowing they are using the Net. Newly connected persons may still be irrelevant to the Net as an enabler of financial flows, however, they have more possibilities of becoming relevant. And they do present an opportunity for advertising, as one sees with free apps available on Android's Market for applications.

These services are also going to go some way in crossing Castells divide between the Net and the self. Castells postulates that irrelevant portions of the population develop a strong identity, which is localised and which rejects the global Net. The self thus is incompatible with the Net, the local approach incompatible with the global.

All this just goes to underline that networks in 2011 are going to connect more poor people, and corporations and governments will try to leverage economies of scale to draw even more finances out of these newly connected. Money will trickle down, and it will trickle back up too. It might be better to draw an analogy with the mammalian circulatory system: money like blood rushes through vast pipes at the heart of the networked society, and it is forced into ever thinner ducts as it approaches the marginalised areas, until it performs a kind of slow ooze. However, even this ooze has a direction, until eventually the money gathers together in the pipes and heads back to the heart. By trying to draw more money from these regions, what should end up happening is the laying of larger pipes and the tighter integration of marginalised areas to the "big pump". Ultimately this will be beneficial, as new needs will generate new was to access revenues.

By: Ron Wertlen [permalink]
Posted: January 31st 2011 06:22
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Tablet Face Recognition Login
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If you have a chance, please have a look at our photos on the eLearning Africa page:The Village Scribe Association submitted 5 images (with very cool descriptions!!) for the eLearning Africa Photo Competition. Please, help us to win the competition by voting for us now online! Some of the photos are...
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eKhaya ICT is an Eastern Cape based software company, specialising in quality solutions and software components of ICT4D.

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