Change Maker: From Township to Texas and Next?
Tembinkosi Qondela had an idea, “to digitalise Khayelitsha”, a poor township in Cape Town, South Africa, where digital literacy levels are low and many find it difficult to make a simple photocopy or send a basic email.
In 2015 this idea took him on an adventure from Khayelitsha to Austin Texas, USA – 14,000 kilometres away – where he received the Dewey Winburne Community Service Award, an initiative of the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival. Tembinkosi’s journey to Austin began at the Whizz ICT Resource Centre which he started in 2008 with no technological background and after leaving his job as a Research Assistant in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town. The centre assists approximately 100 individuals’ everyday with, amongst other things, photocopying, creating CV’s, job applications and general end user training, things many of us take for granted. Whizz ICT was one of ten nominees that year and the only one from the African continent.
Dewey Winburne one of the original co-founders of SXSW, an event which is a launching pad for new content and offers a unique convergence of original music, independent films, and emerging technologies, is remembered as a humanitarian and true visionary of the New Media Revolution. Despite winning numerous awards Dewey remained committed to education through ICT, therefore, the award given in his name recognises recipients for their use of digital technology to help others. Each recipient receives a $1000 grant, complimentary registration to SXSW and an opportunity to showcase their work to the wider SXSW community.
When asked about the impact of the award on his organisation, Tembinkosi responded, “tremendous” and explained that the entire community celebrated for four weeks! The recognition brought greater exposure and standing to the organisation (and himself), both within Khayelitsha and abroad; important as Whizz ICT has no marketing budget and relies purely on word-of-mouth advertising. The award allowed Tembinkosi to take part in a roadshow informing the wider community about his service and the award and inviting them to celebrate with him; he fully believes that the award is not merely an honour for him but the entire community. Internally the award had a positive impact on staff who were now newly motivated.
Exposure to the SXSW community allowed him the opportunity to form useful connections and also introduced him to innovative ways in which ICT is being used to improve education in the USA and Europe, skills he hopes to bring home. Tembinkosi believes that international connections are extremely important to his business as technology is constantly changing and they bring in expertise and knowledge about new developments. A previous American volunteer at the Centre managed to organise a training session by Facebook at Whizz ICT and the web-development course currently offered by the Centre is being run by a company in Nicaragua; these examples demonstrate practically the value of relationships.
Fully aware of the challenges facing developing nations such as South Africa and much of the continent, Tembinkosi’s mission is to solve people’s needs through ICT; an idea he does not believe is being supported enough by ICT developers globally. Much development is “nice to have”, but he questions the impact it will have in solving the basic needs of individuals. He motivates with an example of a past student who went from working part time in the retail industry with no benefits to having a secure administration position within the South African Department of Labour. She credits the computer course she took at Whizz ICT with providing her with the opportunity to change her life.
Tembinkosi will be discussing the importance of social innovation and digital literacy in addressing the needs of the most disadvantaged in our country and abroad. He will comment on the impact of international recognition on an organisation and answer questions about branching out and making a real difference in society. Join us to listen to his inspirational journey online and to discuss during the rest of the week. If you are at or near the University of Cape Town we invite you to join us Monday 25 April at the Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CILT), PD Hahn Building, Upper Campus
|Tembinkosi Qondela, co-founded the Whizz ICT Centre, Khayelitsha, South Africa which is an organisation that seeks to facilitate the use of information communication technology (ICT) tools, for development efforts of poor communities. Whizz ICT Centre has identified the use of lack of access to information as a significant contributor to marginalization of the youth which compose of the majority of South African society. Whizz has put up a youth centre which gives access to youth, computer training as well as other ICT related services.|