Making our way to Owerri

The Sunday morning  Bradley and I was awake early and felt a bit adventurous.We ventured into the little town of Ewu on our own without our guide and contact Benneth.When we got outside  we saw lots of little scooters (local taxis ) zipping up and down  the little dusty streets. Ones dodging skills had to be on par as you  had to watch where you were walking and dodge these scooters at the same  time. Lots of fun!We met up with two of these taxi drivers and asked them to take us around the town.

Houtchie (left) and Boutchie (right) our taxi drivers for the morning

We hopped on their scooters and they whisked us off to a navy base where we were greeted by armed guards. The guards were however not as intimating as they looked and allowed us to take some pictures with them.It was then time to head back to the guesthouse and get packing for the next leg of our journey that would take us to a town called Owerri. I still could not get over the humidity but had to learn to adapt quickly.

RLabs Nigeria Trip:DAY 1

The time has finally arrived for Bradley and I to go to Nigeria to set up and RLabs there. It was quite the mission just organizing the logistics to get to Nigeria but it was on the good and capable hands of  RLabs Director Rene Parker. We had three flights to catch before we   were to arrive at our final destination in Owerri,Nigeria. First we had to catch a flight to JOHANNESBURG ,from JOHANNESBURG – LAGOS and from LAGOS – OWERRI.


After a long day of travelling we finally arrived at Lagos airport in the evening and  could feel the humidity as we got off from the plane and entered the airport.  We did not have much difficulty getting through customs but it did take long however.  We met our contact Benneth, a humble gentle man, as we came out of the airport. He had a car waiting for us and we made our way through the thick traffic to guesthouse we were going to overnight at.One could see the poorness in the little run down town where the guesthouse was situated. It was then time for a good nights rest  as we had one more flight to take the following morning to our final destination,Owerri.


A blog post by Marlon Parker: The journey of an imperfect being

Life as we know it comes with all kinds of challenges, tears, joy, heartache and laughter. Life in itself is a journey, one that we all undertake, one where we hope that we live life to the fullest and be able to at least make a positive difference and impact in the life’s journey of others.

In most cases, we as people disqualify ourselves from being able to make that positive impact because we are focused on our imperfections and always have the struggle in our minds that we are too bad to be of any good. I’ve had this struggle many times in my life and it is always a battle because it is easier to give up and accept our imperfections and use it as an excuse not to do the good.

Since starting this journey of longing to do good there is always a perception of who you are (your background) and what is it that allows you to follow through on this journey of hope. So many have asked the question before, “Who is Marlon Parker?, What is his story? What’s your motives?” and many responses to these questions were given. Today I want to take it further and tell you who I am from the heart:

I was born in a home where my father deserted me at a young age, not being the perfect son to a loving mother and late-grandmother (they are my life), not even the perfect brother (I love my brothers and sister, the one who I should have taken care of and nurtured as an older brother is in prison today), not the perfect husband to my beautiful wife (who has my heart and who I love, yet she forgive me and love me even when I caused her pain and heartache), not the perfect friend (every friend that I’ve ever letdown, caused pain or not live up to your expectations). As a teenager I could not deal with peer-pressure and became a “teen alcoholic” wanting to please others just to be accepted. At the age of 15 I was suicidal had no longing to live and no ambition, fatherless and rebellious. I was never the perfect student, I’ve failed many times (failed people too) and yet I had this longing to one day be able to do good.

Yet the questions always remained: how can I (Marlon Parker) who lied, cheated, caused pain and heartache, who was dishonest, broke vows, alcoholic, deserted, imperfect, failed, weak, scared make a positive change in someone’s life? What qualifies me to do this yet I’m the worst of the worst and not the perfect person?

The answer is simple and is found in these beautiful words:

“when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears”

I AM NOT perfect and will never BE but my perfection is found in my faith in the LORD Jesus (He was the one who carried me and is still carrying me all these years even when I failed Him).

This journey of Hope and making a difference was never about me and will never be about me…it is about the people (By people for people). If someone who is as bad and imperfect as me could persevere on this journey then anyone can do good and make a difference.

I therefore ask forgiveness to everyone who was ever letdown and hurt by Marlon, to those who feel imperfect and that you can’t do anything to make a difference, think again….your journey has just begun and someone out there has been waiting on you to start their reconstruction process.

Marlon needs to be reconstructed and that is the reason why “I will always need you” because this journey is not about me (will never be), it is about the people, it is about hope, it is about learning, it is about opportunity, it is about reconstruction and it is about A Social Revolution (by the people for the people) especially those who are longing for reconstruction and that has always been what RLabs represents.

Rlabs: Internet Access for All

As a drug user, it was easier for Brent Williams to steal a computer than to actually operate one. But when he kicked the habit and learned how to use computers, he experienced the empowerment that comes from having access to the Internet. That is when he established Rlabs, a community center that teaches computer skills in the deprived area in Cape Town where he used to shoot drugs.

The Next Level

The Lord has  really be gracious towards me.Not too long ago traveling abroad and beyond the borders of South Africa was not an option for me. I always thought that you only qualified to do so If you had lots of money and came from a prominent family. I have come to learn that this was a bunch of lies and was the total opposite of what was going on in my mind. The only  reason my thought pattern was like that was because my mind was drug induced at the time.

All of that has changed since I embraced Christ and since I have joined the RLabs Revolution. I joined the Revolution in 2007 and have since become on of the Directors for organisation. This has been, an still is, an epic journey and I am enjoying every step of it. Part of my work now is to travel abroad and represent the organisation at various conferences and also very involved in the Social Franchising of RLabs locally and globally.

The awesome thing about this is that I don’t have to pay a dime to go and travel to these various places as the costs are covered by the conferences I attend or the various organisation that we work with in the various countries. You see..the Lord has seen my heart and has granted me my hearts desires.So the one thing that I have to bare in mind and constantly have to remind myself about is that this would not be possible without God and that I constantly need Him wherever I go.

I will be doing a lot of travelling in Africa this year so I am  looking forward to see what is in store for me in the next couple of months.Put your trust in God and see what He can do for you.You have nothing too loose!.


Back at the 4th Euro- Africa Cooperation Forum on ICT Research

Last year I was invited to speak at the 4th Euro- Africa Cooperation to speak about how RLabs is: Transferring Innovation On A Grassroots Level. This particular conference was held in Finland which meant me going over seas for seven days. This year this same conference is being held in Cape Town and I was once again invited to come and speak here.

I am so looking forward to all the presentation and to see how ICT is being utilized in Europe and Africa. The aim of today is networking as well and looking forward to meeting with potential future partners for RLabs. I am grateful for this opportunity to be able to represent RLabs at this conference. That is what RLabs is all about,it is about growth ..and this is me growing.

Checking out Tumblr

I have recently read that Tumblr is growing twice as fast than WordPress.Now being a WordPress fan I could not help but go and see what the the buss was all about.I went and signed up a Tumblr account and went to play around with it a bit. It just so happened that when I tried to sign myself up it showed that I already had an account hehehe. Clearly I have forgotten and of course forget the username and password.

I used my other email account and registered a new account and started blogging on there. The cool thing about Tumblr is that you can follow other people almost like a type of Twitter. It also automatically adds your Twitter steam to your site as well wich i found to be cool.  I am looking forward to exploring more with this tool and then being able to teach others in the RLabs Academy about it.

Does NGO Stand for New Golden Opportunity?

This was a blog post written about RLabs on the SangoNet Blog.Have a read and please comment and let me know what you think about this article.

Having been invited to speak at the recent 2nd Annual Thinking Mobile™ Conference, listening to Mark Slade, Managing Director of 4th Screen Mobile advertising in the UK, I hear a story that seems only too familiar. His frustration with the speed in which some of the planets biggest agencies adopt new media and technology. I was just pleased to hear that it wasn’t just South Africa that has this inherent problem.

With this in mind I feel almost obligated to share what is going on out there in the mobile NGO space in the sincere hope that some bright spark spinning in their Antonio Citterio chair at some flash agency will get it.

Is my project (a) Innovative (b) Socially empowering (c) Commercially viable?

I would be more than happy if any project I undertook ticked all three boxes. Mobile campaigns are not merely a means to an end to tap into a mobile crowd, achieve thousands of entries for a brand manager that has little or no understanding of the mobile space other than the fact that certain apps have robbed him of time he would never spend with his children.

In this emerging market in which we find ourselves, those in the .org or NGO space have had to be ingenious in reaching those that require help and being progressive recognised the main form of communication is mobile, and not high tech mobile either. Stand up Marlon Parker (a legend in his own lunchtime) from Reconstructive Living Labs (RLABS), the group that provides innovative solutions to address various complex problems. It creates an environment where people are empowered to make a difference in the lives of others. Through the creation, dissemination and application of knowledge they aim to increase the empowerment, upliftment and development of individuals and communities. They do this through the use of innovative solutions.

The RLabs ‘main hub’ is in Cape Town but have activity in the UK, Europe, Asia and Central Africa. The Reconstructed Programme has been designed for ex-drug addicts, and the unemployed who received ongoing technology training and mentoring. The free Counselling service has over 120 000 subscribed mobile users on MXit, operating from Monday to Thursday from 3pm to 6pm managing 300 to 400 counseling sessions per day via mobile, utilizing the Jamiix Social Exchange programme. JamiiX has been given the official seal of approval, by no less than The World Health Organisation (WHO). The WHOs’ South-East Asia Regional Office (SEARO) is being supported by the JamiiX messaging management system in bringing emergency readiness information to mobile users in disaster-prone Indonesia via MXit.

One of the other highlights for the group was receiving the 2009 South African blog awards runners up.

The Rlab Mom 4.0 café sessions are hosted for women from the Cape Flats community who were housewives, unemployed, been through divorce, abuse and have stories of hope to share with other women using mobile.

Social Media and Research is undertaken for a number of businesses and organisations and was recently the Social Media partner for the Innovation Fair, hosted by the World Bank.

Through innovation, communities can address fundamental issues such as health, education, etc. to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life for many with mass market reach with its first global product JamiiX (“Social Exchange”). Other technology start-ups include She’s The Geek (Won Best South African Blog for Science and Technology in 2010) and Uusi – Empowerment via Mobile Phone (Research Paper presented at International Conference during 2010)…They’re not the only ones…

MXit has also become an enormous social, life skills and educational resource for users. Childline South Africa currently receives around 100 000 calls a month from children who require counselling on matters related to physical and emotional abuse, neglect and family problems. Around 68 000 MXit users have downloaded the application on MXit, for free and private counselling sessions conducted in specially adapted chatrooms.

In partnership with Cell-Life, MXit hosts the “Red” contact offering free HIV/AIDS information and advice. When the user adds the contact, it allows them to view HIV/AIDS information in 4 of the official South African languages. They have successfully hosted live and anonymous HIV counselling for the past year with over 59 000 users who have added the contact – which brings the total number of MXit users who have access the counselling services on MXit to close on 250 000 of its users.

They also support UNICEF’s initiative of ‘Let’s Give the Red Card to Child Exploitation’. The Red Card seeks to help children and young people to stay safe. Each year, tens of thousands of children around the world are exploited through child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, child trafficking and child pornography.

Further, the Dr Maths project in partnership with the CSIR / Merake offers free one-on-one Maths tutorial using MXit and has a user-base of over 19 000 children, with 100 tutors and in operation for the past two years. Another similarly innovative project on MXit is the curriculum aligned multiple Maths quizzes – namely QuizMax, which assist Gr 12’s with Maths, Physical Science and Life Science quizzes and tutorials.

The National Youth Parliament ran a mobile youth survey to identify and discuss the issues that confront them in their daily lives and identify creative solutions to these challenges…the result…the largest youth survey undertaken in SA with over 63 000 users completing a 16 part mobile survey and just for fun users were prompted to go on a virtual  march, pinging a users submission from mobile to web, resulting in over 15 000 marchers in six weeks…hmm surveys…Those clever people at TNS recognise this and are busy in this mobile space and I sincerely hope they can start to unravel and make sense of the swarm mentality and that we start to see more brands listening.

And so it goes on…

So now that the Antonio Citterio has stopped spinning and I have your attention, it does not take a creative genius to see that some of these organisations biggest issue is cash. It should be relatively simple to form commercial collaborative partnerships. Then there’s the technology, what a great PR story. Here’s the counselling Jamiix software benefiting thousands of users in need of advice and here’s a multinational brand using Jamiix to service its call centre requirements – the .org is happy the brand is happy (think CSI budgets) the people are happy.

There is some very exciting working technology out there being developed by people who are not selling but listening and it’s ripe for the picking.

Does NGO stand for New Golden Opportunity? Yes it does!

And before I get slammed for criticising agencies and brand managers I don’t mean all agencies and all brand managers…you know who you are.


About Mike Carter:

Mike Carter heads up Trigger/ Isobar’s mobile business unit. A former senior strategist at Mxit brings with him a decade of experience in assisting some top brands in the adoption of mobile as a serious business and media channel. Trigger/ Isobar’s mobile business unit is focused on providing clients with turnkey mobile strategy, development and integration services.

About Trigger/Isobar

Isobar is the world’s largest digital agency group represented in 54 countries.   Isobar South Africa is a Full Service Digital Agency offering an integrated spectrum of digital marketing services including Digital Strategy, Digital Media, Search, Application Development, Social Media, Creative and Digital Production across mobile and fixed line Internet.

About Aegis Media

Aegis Media is constantly pioneering the worlds of media communications and market research. It is the only global marketing services group focused on the two most strategically significant disciplines in marketing today and it consistently grows faster than its markets. Aegis Media brings together some of the world’s leading brands in marketing services with a shared vision to create the communications group of the future


Grow Academy Launches Boot Camp

On June 27, 2011, the GROW Academy will launch its first attack with an initial pilot ‘Boot Camp’ in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

The purpose of the Boot Camp is to provide the team with an idea of the content and competencies required to see the development of the ‘recruits’ and the respective curriculum for the expanded edition of the program for the future launch of a fully-fledged digital academy due to launch in 2012.

Grow goal is to create a space where young individuals can be trained in the art of managing digital platforms.  Participants will learn to use the tools that are available through social media platforms to serve the needs of non-profit organisations.

The founding partners in this project are WooThemes, RLabs (Reconstructed Living Lab), Silulo, Webgrowth and the GivenGain Foundation South Africa. We have a common vision and objective to make a difference in our city and our nation by providing a stepping-stone for school leavers and the digitally passionate unemployed to get back into the job market.

Boot Camp Details:

- 27 June – 1 July 2011

- 12 – 20 Pre-Selected ‘Recruits’

- Silulo Training Centre, Makhaza Mall, Lansdowne Road, Khayelitsha

- Mornings: Theory; Afternoons: Practical with Evaluation

- Cost: FREE to pilot group

The courses delivered will include lecture-based sessions, coupled with assisted and tutored practical application of the various tools and skills presented. These classroom sessions will be followed by real-world internships at selected non-profit and commercial organisations that are willing to accommodate digital apprenticeships. All students will be provided with personal, online, email and telephonic support, relative to their stage of skill and application, by the academy and its appointed partners. It is our intention to see apprentices become artisans, from job seekers to job takers, urgently!

We need to go beyond the digital divide. We need to strengthen digital minds.

We need to GROW!



Adii Pienaar & Mark Forrester                                                                                                                                     Colin Habberton

GivenGain Foundation South Africa

WooThemes                                                                                                                                           +27 21 882 9070                                                                                                                           +27 71 401 2434

Renee Parker


+27 21 699 1453

+27 79 811 8536

Luvuyo Rani


+27 72 261 2472

Neil Pursey


+27 84 627 0619

via rlabs

Social Media Boot Camp

Wondering how your company can embrace social media for better performance online? Struggling with reaching your target audience? Sign up for the RLabs Social Media Boot Camp on June 6 in Athlone, Cape Town and let the professionals of RLabs’ Social Media Factory guide you into the world of a Social Business.

During the morning, professionals from different countries will share their experience within the social media and social business industry. Some of the topics to be presented are process innovation in businesses, social media and mobile phones, semantic web, fund-raising campaigns and much more.

After a coffee break, there are hands-on consulting sessions with the presenters. So you have an opportunity to discuss how your company can improve its performance and business by embracing social media, you visit the “Business and Innovation” hub. The “Fund-raising” hub is there to advise and help you with fund raising money via social media platforms. Finally there is also a “Social Networking” hub that is specialized in creating you a company weblog and get you active on various social platforms (E.g. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.).


Date and time: June 6, 09.00 till 16.00

Location: RLabs, 66 Tarentaal Road, Bridgetown, Cape Town

Price: R1000 per person, including coffee breaks and a good lunch

Bookings and info: or call 021 699 1453 and ask for Craig Ross. Please note that booking is only possible before the 30th of May and that there is a limited amount of seats available.



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