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 Program has been designed for ex-drug addicts, and the unemployed who received ongoing technology training and mentoring. The free Counseling 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 Organization (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.
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. www.isobar.co.za