Posts Tagged ‘RLABS’

RLabs – A Space And Atmosphere For Learning

Some of the courses for the 1st semester in the RLabs Academy are coming to an end.  I had assigned myself to the Photography class which is facilitated by Ricky Johnson. Ricky has created a very joyful and family orientated atmosphere in this particular class. Everyone seemed to be so at peace with each other and lots of laughs and jokes were shared.I also had the privilege of seeing one of the students showcase their work. She out of her own went along and printed out her pictures she took on an excursion the class had and decided to bring it with her to show the others.

Christine Herling printed her pics and showcased them in class


In Saturday’s class Ricky spoke to the students about making money from photography and how one could turn a hobby into a business.  All the students were exited at the prospect of earning money from photography.  One could literally could see the hope on their faces after hearing this good news.

After the photography class Craig Ross asked me to sit in on the Entrepreneurship class as his students were going to pitch their business ideas later that morning. I saw the opportunity and asked some of the photography students to sit in on the presentations that would be done by the entrepreneurship students so that they could draw some inspiration and ideas from them.

The entrepreneurship students pitched and presented their businesses ideas to the audience and like second nature the photography students (that was now part of the audience) whipped out their cameras and started capturing the event.  In this session the photography students could now learn the do’s and don’ts when starting a business as the audience gave feedback and constructive criticism after every business that was presented.

One of the businesses who presented

This was all in the spirit of learning and there were no hard feelings about the feedback but everyone understood that this was a learning experience. All- in- all the businesses that was represented was good and well done to the entrepreneurship students for all their hard work they had put into their projects.


I take my hat off to all the students within the Academy for stepping out and stepping up. You guys do us proud!!

I am excited to see what of this business will be hosted in our Business Incubator ,Innovia .

Iringa Living Lab kicks off

This weekend RLabs together with TanzICT headed off to Iringa to do  Social Media and Facilitation training  with some of the key role players from the community.

Yusuf ,one of the locals, and also the champion for the Living Lab initiative there did a good job  of getting all the people together at the Tumaini campus where the training was conducted.The training was done in  English but had to be translated into kiSwahili .  For some of the participants present it was the first time using or working on a computer and it first they were a bit anxious and did not know what to expect. After signing  most of the participants up for their first email address on Gmail, their anxiousnous  soon developed into much excitement and enthusiasm.

At first we had some problems with connectivity and power but that did not stop us from going ahead with the training.We simply did something which Kristiina Lahde  calles the “Analogue” version of Gmail ( see picture below). This proved to be of great help as participants came back to the flip charts later to take notes even after we have finished our training.  We will now be conducting our other training in Iringa with a projector and the “Analogue” version as well.

Most of them said that that they thought that the Internet and computers were only for the elite. This is exactly the people that RLabs are looking at working with.People that needs hope and to now that there is so much good and ability  within them that needs to be discovered. We will be going back to Iringa to do some more training in August.This time around the goal is  to train up trainers so that they could train up the rest of the community in the future even if we not there.

We are looking forward to see how this all unfolds and to see what a great Living Lab will turn out to be.




Breaking technological barriers-Social media excite rural Tanzania

This is a blog post by Yusuf.One of our RLabs champs in Iringa.He will be spear- heading the Living Lab initiative there:Read more about what he has to say:



Participants are eager to learn more about the world of Social Media

What started as a far fetched dream is finally coming to reality as TANZICT and RLabs have partnered with Iringa Living Lab to initiate social innovations that can impact people’s lives in a myriad of ways. Iringa Living Lab is one of the pioneer living labs in Tanzania. Yesterday, the first community training took place on how to use social media to expand their social networks and benefit from the opportunities of globalization and technology.

There was much excitement as some participants touched the computer for the first time. Indeed it was a Eureka moment for many who had always thought computers are for a select class of people. The training took place at Tumaini University, one of the key partners in the Iringa Living Lab.

Brent, a consultant from RLabs shared his story of how his life was transformed thanks to RLabs that opened doors of hope to people in his community who had lost direction. His story touched everyone in the room.

There is now new energy.

What a difference Hope makes!

“Another Journey” – A blog post by Gary Saaiman

This is a post written by my dear brother Gary Saaiman .I am amazed at how he has written this story and the revelation he got just by seeing us from behind.So encouraging.Go ahead and read for yourself….


Its Saturday at about 6:30 am and I’m woken by the sound of Brent and Bradley  talking as they walk through my room making their way to the airport. I`m so tired as I couldn’t even keep my eyes open and I wanted to shout and greet them but they moved so fast and the only thing I could see was their backs for a couple of seconds.

Well to you it might have been just a normal sight but It was something supernatural to me. A couple of years back the same scene would had a different outcome. They would probably be planning where their next fix was going to come from something, illegal that would have been no benefit to our community, it definitely would not have had a good effect.

This was a different sight though, same picture but different journey. They were on their way to the airport this time going to Nigeria to set up a Rlabs hub. Rlabs Nigeria will be a difference that people have been crying out for, for years. Its a movement of hope where communities are reconstructed using technology. No matter how devstated the lives of people are, how hopeless they may seem, how depressed they might feel.

You asked these two gentlemen their life stories and you weigh what they are now and I promise you a joy, a hope, an excitement will be birthed inside of you fuelling your dreams, encouraging you to allow GOD to carry you through your fires and then polishing you to go and shine for HIM, in your home to your family, in your street, in your neighbourhood, in your community, in your city, country or even the world.

  It really doesn’t matter where you go, taking hope to the hopeless is all that matters.

That was the glimpse I got in 5 seconds, imagine I had more time :-)

For more stories of hope go to

Reconstructing the world one community at a time

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.


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.

Day 1 of the 3rd Africa – Euro Cooperation Forum on ICT in Helsinki,Finland

Conference room slowly filling up

This morning I am at the 3rd Africa – Euro Cooperation Forum on ICT in Helsinki, Finland. I will be doing a talk tomorrow about how we as RLABS are best transferring  innovation on a Grass Roots level. There are delegates and participants from all over Europe and Africa and will be sharing what they are doing in the respective capacities.

I will be speaking about what we are doing at RLABS and how we are using not just Social Media but a lot of Innovation to transform the lives of drug addicts and a community in tension.

Read up more about the conference here.

Breaking news!!!

About a month ago received the best news ever from Marlon and Rene Parker, the founding members of RLABS. They recently asked me if I would like to attend a conference in Helsinki, Finland. At first I thought it was a joke but I did not see Rene laughing or smiling and was actually waiting on me to give to give her answer. My answer was naturally yes as I have never been abroad, but also this would be good for RLABS and for my own personal growth. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and I praise God for availing this to me.

Not only did they ask me to attend the conference but also visit some of the churches in the UK seeing that I was in Europe and it would be such a waste to just be out there for the 4 days for the conference. So it was decided that I was going to be in the UK for at least a month. This all came as a surprise to me and it can only be the hand of God at work. You see God does not work in a hurry but He works fast. So I will go forth and bring all glory and praise unto Him as a vessel for HIS work.

Innovator up for social media award

Attention: open in a new window.


Many of the RLabs team come from
disadvantaged backgrounds.


Through the Mom 2.0 and 3.0 courses,
women in the community learn to use

April McAlister

JamiiX, an online counselling service operating on the Cape Flats, is a finalist in the inaugural Bees Awards. The ceremony, which takes place in San Francisco on 9 November 2010, recognises the most innovative use of social media in business and communication.

In the category of best use of mobile social media, developer RLabs’ mobile drug counselling application is up against the brpr Group for its work with Smirnoff Ice, and Leo Burnett Frankfurt for its Fiat Punto Evo challenge.

“To be a finalist for this award is such a great honour and privilege,” wrote RLabs founder Marlon Parker on his blog, “as about 74% of the entries were from large brands coming from 21 countries.”

Parker added that the non-profit RLabs is encouraged by the recognition from the international social media community, and will continue to innovate by using social media to bring about social change.

Empowering communities

RLabs operates with a mission to impact, empower and reconstruct global communities through innovation.

Situated in Athlone in the Western Cape, Rlabs tackles the rampant drug use and trade as well as gangster-related violence that have resulted in severe economic and educational challenges for the Cape Flats community.

Based at the Impact Centre in Athlone, RLabs also advises companies and other organisations on social media strategy.

The project was born in 2007 when ten young residents of the area decided to change their lives and obtain an education at a time when use of methamphetamine (known in the area as tik) was rife.

The men went to the Impact Centre, a community centre in Athlone which offered programmes such as feeding schemes, support and counselling and a seniors’ wellness program.

There was no availability at the centre at the time for their rehabilitation, but the director was moved to start a programme called Reconstructed which offered them training and mentoring, as well as motivational talks and lessons in basic responsibility.

The director then brought Parker, an IT lecturer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, on board to teach them computer skills. When asked what they knew about computers one student stated: “I know how to steal one.”

Their experiences were taken online in the form of the blog, which later became Reconstructed Living Lab, or RLabs. Through the use of the blog, Facebook and Twitter they gained a large following and used the social media platforms to encourage and empower other youngsters who were in similar situations and wanted to get out.

In order to give more people access to much-needed counselling, and recognising that most people have a mobile phone even if they can’t afford much else, RLabs developed JamiiX, an aggregator that combines instant messaging with social media in one application. JamiiX can be used on a computer or mobile phone.

RLabs’ Drug Advice Support (DAS) service, which was started to address the drug addiction problem in the Western Cape, is available on JamiiX. DAS is a place where those in need can get help on questions related to drugs, HIV, relationships, and abuse. It also offers a suicide help line, a place of safety and immediate assistance in a crisis.

The system allows a counsellor to transfer a person’s entire history to a colleague, and still retain confidentiality. Over 100 000 South Africans currently use the system, as well as many international users.

JamiiX has partnered with South African success story MXit to make its interface available through a special gateway on the popular instant messaging application.

With an average of 20 000 messages exchanged every hour, 250-300 users assisted in that time, and 5% of online conversations receiving offline referrals. JamiiX is known as “the contact centre on the go”.

“What really excites us is when we hear stories of people whose lives are being changed because of the members of the community who offer their time to help those in need,” said Parker. “Well done to all at RLabs for the amazing work you are doing and we celebrate with you and the rest of the online community through the Bees Awards finalist nomination dedicated to you.”

Helping the community

Besides RLabs and JamiiX, the other main activity at the Impact Centre is Impact Direct, a community- based organisation. Formerly funded by the government, Impact Direct now relies on donations of all kinds, as well as income from wellness sessions, to maintain its operations.

The organisation has adopted the local Kewtown primary school, which accommodates about 400 pupils and is at the heart of the gang wars. Programmes help children to learn basic manners, social skills, and hygiene. They receive a meal, help with homework, and support and counselling where needed. As many children as possible receive one new uniform.

Counsellors also make house calls, as many children have no parents and battle with overcrowding in a limited amount of space. The children thank their teachers by holding an annual wellness day on which each teacher is pampered and given a little gift.

The Moms 3.0 program and Social Media for Teens are a couple of the many programmes offered by the Impact Centre and Rlabs. Others include projects that assist newcomers to technology, such as the elderly, on an individual level.

There is also a dedicated pampering day for the elderly of the community, which focuses on keeping their minds active through arts and crafts. The Seniors Mobile Sessions teaches them to use mobile phones efficiently and send text messages and “please call me” requests, and covers the use of the internet to find all kinds of information, from recipes to growing plants.

Last year technology corporation Dell Inc. sponsored 14 computers for use in the lab – youngsters and adults are able to log in to them via their desktop computers or mobile phones.

RLabs’ Social Media Factory holds sessions in public places such as shopping centres. Each session lasts about ten minutes per person, helping them to set up email, use social media, find a car online and even start a business. This innovation prompted the World Bank to invite RLabs to be the official social media partner at its Innovation Fair held in Sea Point, Cape Town, in April.

Overseas expansion

RLabs operates in Portugal and Malaysia as well as South Africa, while JamiiX has been launched in South Africa, Finland and the UK.

The organisation has initiated its first social franchise, which encompasses the business model, support, branding, and more, in Porto, Portugal. A local franchise in Khayalitsha, also on the Cape Flats, rolled out at the end of October.

Future plans centre on the establishment of RLabs as a social franchise in other locations. Those already confirmed include RLabs Eastern Cape (end of 2010), RLabs Southeast Asia (end of 2010), RLabs Kenya (early 2011), RLabs Johannesburg (early 2011), RLabs Netherlands (early 2011), RLabs Brazil (end of 2011) and RLabs Namibia (late 2011).

• JamiiX: from the Cape Flats to the world
• Low-cost phones for Africa
• Skills via phones for rural women
• Fight HIV with your phone
• Mobile internet booms in South Africa


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