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  • M&G Blogger Clinches Top Award

    Mail & Guardian Online's Thought Leader blogger, Azad Essa, has clinched the best political blog award at the South African Blog Awards ceremony in Cape Town.

     "It is obviously very surprising to have won 'best political blog' considering especially how serious some of the other blogs are,” says Essa.

    Essa, a freelance journalist and lecturer, who works at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Industrial Organisational and Labour Studies Research Unit, writes on various topics including politics, poverty and social inequality. His blog is called Accidental Academic

    To read the article titled, “M&G blogger clinches top blog award,” click here.

    Source: 
    Mail & Guardian
  • Facebook Grows to 200 Million Subscribers

    Social networking site, Facebook, was expecting to welcome its 200 millionth user on 8 April 2009.

    Site co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg, points out that, “We are working hard to build a service that everyone, everywhere can use, whether they are a person, a company, a president or an organisation working for change."

    Zuckerberg, who created Facebook with two Harvard University roommates five years ago, says, "At Facebook, we want to build the best service in the world for people to connect with and share everything that is important to them, whether day-to-day or world-changing."

    To read the article titled, “Facebook hits 200-million milestone,” click here.

    Source: 
    IOL Technology
  • Telecoms Operators Sign African Undersea Cable

    Telkom has announced that a consortium of telecoms operators have signed a deal that will pave the way for the laying of South Africa's undersea cable around West Africa to Europe.

    In a press statement, Telkom points out that the US$600 million West Africa Cable System will boost broadband capacity and could cut comparatively high Internet tariffs in Africa's biggest economy.

    The company states that the 14 000 kilometre long cable system will be supplied by Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks and is expected to be completed by 2011.

    To read the article titled, “Telecoms operators sign African undersea cable,” click here.

    Source: 
    Mail and Guardian
  • NGOs Respond to Prodder / GuideStar

    In South Africa where civil society campaigns and advocacy work have been a dominant feature of the NGO sector, a directory of any nature is a useful networking tool to facilitate sector collaboration. In 1987 when the Prodder Directory first went to print, the image of a compass was included in the logo to represent the idea of the directory being a guide to development sector projects. By mapping development stakeholders and programme areas across South Africa (in a less virtual/visual age), Prodder was the first publication of its kind to provide information on the contributions of NGOs, donors, government and corporate social investment (CSI) initiatives to development.

    Comparatively, the GuideStar system, founded in the United States in 1994, was developed with the primary focus on reporting, with the aim of increasing transparency in the US non-profit sector. GuideStar International (GSI), in conjunction with local partners, provides information about civil society organisations in 11 countries. A core value driving on-line public access to NGO reports through GSI is the belief that public reporting is vital to the strength and success of the sector.

    The difference between the two systems is the level of detail and depth of information. Where the functionality of Prodder was growing in increments, partnering with GSI to establish a Prodder / GSI NGO Directory in South Africa is a leap in technological developments, searches and reporting outputs. In the future, the Prodder / GSI Directory will enable users to do much more and far sooner, than had we not entered into the partnership.

    In broadening the scope of Prodder to facilitate sector reporting on a new GSI platform, SANGONeT consulted Prodder directory users. A series of focus group discussions were held following the SANGONeT NGO Engagements.

    The objectives of the meetings were to generate feedback on the system from potential users, assist with change management and to prepare an implementation plan for the new Prodder / GSI system.

    The focus group discussions in Durban and Cape Town, held on 10 and 13 March 2009 respectively, involved approximately 30 participants. This was followed by a NGO CEO Circle, a meeting of CSI professionals and a donor round table on 17 March 2009 in Johannesburg.

    In particular, the following items were tabled for discussion:
    • Organisational reporting, the benefits and pains of reporting, the distribution and audience of the reports;
    • The benefits and risks of greater organisational transparency, and
    • Public access to information on organisations working for public benefit.
    Discussion and responses
    Producing organisational reports is not a particularly gratifying experience. Participants felt that reports are not thoroughly read, are rarely appreciated and are produced very often for the sole purpose of satisfying donor requirements. Although reports are occasionally used by organisations to reflect on achievements, they are mostly external documents and are rarely used internally to reflect, learn and improve organisational programmes. The potential value of reporting as an opportunity for evaluation and organisational self-reflection was discussed. Participants expressed unanimous support for the idea of a standardised reporting format for all grantmakers and funders.

    The issue of accountability in the NGO sector was raised alongside the discussion on transparency. That accountability in the sector is still a difficult issue was evident in some of the passionate exchanges that took place. However, as Caroline Neligan from GuideStar International was quick to point out, accountability and transparency are often conflated. While greater transparency can result in improved accountability, determining accountability is an evaluative process. Greater transparency, however, assists with public relations (marketing), increases trust amongst staff within organisations and beneficiaries, and facilitates reporting.

    Joanie Fredericks of Rural Education, Awareness and Community Health highlighted the importance of trust when engaging beneficiaries and communities. People want to know that their contributions are visible and they want to keep abreast of developments. While an organisation's website can be effectively used for purposeful communications, a listing in Prodder / GSI presents all organisations on an equal footing in a standard format and can increase traffic to the organisation's website.

    Some concerns were raised about the potential abuse of the detailed information presented on a Prodder / GSI platform. Threats identified included: private sector use of the directory for marketing purposes, the potential of Prodder / GSI to become a ‘gatekeeper’ to funding (e.g. if an organisation is not listed, it would not be considered for funding) and the use of organisational data within the context of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) principle, as raised by Ricardo Wyngaard of Inyathelo - The South African Institute for Advancement.

    Several participants were eager to address the issue of accessibility to the online environment. It was argued that Prodder / GSI platform has the potential to become an exclusive system if there is not a concerted effort to include CBOs and organisations operating in rural South Africa. Implications of this discussion went far beyond the focus and scope of Prodder, as comments about mobile access and the ‘digital divide’ pointed to the fact that there is still plenty of work for SANGONeT and other ICT stakeholders in the area of ICTs for development.

    Outputs from the focus group discussions will inform the Prodder / GSI implementation plan, with more meetings scheduled during April 2009 in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

    The implementation of the Prodder / GSI NGO Directory is expected to complement and enhance SANGONeT's range of online services. As the best of directory technology through GSI is combined with the history and engagement of Prodder and NGO Pulse in South Africa, we anticipate that Prodder / GSI will provide an important resource, space and tool for users to contribute to, and draw on, a wealth of information for, by and about the NGO sector.

    - Aadila Molale is the Prodder Project Manager at SANGONeT.

    Author(s): 
    Aadila Molale
  • Resource: Global Health Directory

    The Global Health Directory contains contact details of more than 500 organisations actively involved in the frontlines of global health are listed. It includes up-to-date contact information, mission statements, details on service focus, regions/countries served and target groups plus expanded indices.

    To explore this resource, click here.
  • Skype Launches Service for iPhone Users

    Skype, the Internet telephone unit of eBay Inc, is planning to launch a service for iPhone and BlackBerry users in May as part of its effort to expand beyond desktop computers.

    Skype Chief Operating Officer, Scott Durchslag, has high hopes for the application's success on Apple Inc's popular iPhone as he expects Skype's most feature-rich mobile offering to appeal to new and existing customers.

    "The No 1 request we get from customers is to make Skype available on iPhone. There's a pent-up demand," Durchslag says.

    Skype has been pushing to make its service work on the most popular advanced phones with an aim to expanding its more than 400 million users who were mostly lured by the promise of cheap and sometimes free calls made using its computer application.

    To read the article titled, “Skype announces iPhone service,” click here.
    Source: 
    <br /> News24
    Article link: 
  • NGO Pulse: A Tool for Civil Society

    A key finding of the 2007 ‘State of ICTs in the South African NGO Sector’ study was that the information and communication technology (ICT) investment of NGOs has been geared primarily towards the administrative running of organisations, rather than to achieving their goals and objectives. As a result, the great potential of ICTs to strengthen and support programmes remained largely untapped by the majority of NGOs. However, with the increased uptake of web 2.0 and greater interest in ICT tools, the past two years has seen many more South African NGOs making innovative use of ICTs in their work.

    It was with this awareness that we embarked on the SANGONeT NGO engagements in Durban and Cape Town from 9-13 March. Our aim was to introduce the new NGO Pulse portal to civil society organisations and also to share some practical uses of ICTs for development. The responses encouraging: 40 participants in Durban and almost 50 in Cape Town. Working in Johannesburg often means that we rarely are able to meet organisations outside the province; a criticism that was expressed by participants at both events: “NGOs are active all over the country; it is not only organisations in Johannesburg who are interested in your work!”

    For SANGONeT staff, meeting people with whom we had only email correspondence was rewarding: Writing in his blog, SANGONeT’s information coordinator Butjwana Seokoma said: “For me the highlight was when I met the likes of Pauline Solomons from the Community Development Resource Association, Tasneem Gamieldien from the South African National NGO Coalition in that province, Ernesto Vialva from the Southern African Media and Gender Institute, etc. I have been communicating with these individuals since joining SANGONeT.” Seokoma joined SANGONeT in 2006!

    The SANGONeT slogan “Linking civil society through ICTs” represents the foundation of the NGO Pulse portal. In addition to providing and disseminating information about what is happening in the civil society sector, the portal is also an important space where NGOs can find ways to collaborate, support and learn from each other and find solutions to common problems.

    Participants were taken on a ‘tour’ of the NGO Pulse portal, including the newly launched Community group – a discussion space for civil society to debate, get input, post questions and also to share their experiences. The NGO Community group creates the space for organisations and individuals to talk to each other. Using a discussion board format, the group includes:

    1. What works: What does change look like? Share your best impact stories with us. This section of the portal lets you share what you are doing right and how you are doing it. Send us pictures, stories or anecdotes from the field. We do not want traditional case studies, we want stories of change.
    2. Questions and Answers – do you have a question about the NGO sector – management, finance or are just working in the sector and want to find out more? Go to our Q & A section and post your query. We’ll answer what we can, but also hope that the community at large will be able to help
    3. The Exchange: Have something to offer? Need something? … if you are interested in contributing your skills, services and / or time to the NGO sector post it here. Are you looking for assistance / volunteers, consultants or even full time staff? Post it here too! Have something to donate? Let us know here!

    SANGONeT receives daily queries relating to human resources, fundraising – sources and opportunities, NGO management, report writing etc. Until the launch of the portal we would respond to individual requests – often linking people with ‘experts’ who have been able to assist them. The NGO Community group recognises that there are many common concerns and opportunities within the sector and provides space for ‘conversations’ to take place – from which others can benefit.

    Why NGO Pulse?

    A question we were asked repeatedly at both the Durban and Cape Town events was: “So why should I use NGO Pulse?” Writing about the Durban event in her blog SANGONeT programme assistant, Nicolle Beeby said: “As most of the organisations who attended already have their own organisation websites, the question on everyone’s minds was how the NGO Pulse portal could help them, without replacing their existing websites. The answer is easy! The NGO Pulse portal can help maximise their exposure.”

    Quick facts about NGO Pulse:

    • 1000 - 1200 unique visitors a day;
    • 23 415 visitors to NGO Pulse in February 2009 – the highest number since the portal’s inception;
    • 496 registered NGO Pulse users as at end February 2009;
    • 20 614 subscribers receive the weekly NGO Pulse newsletter.
    Introducing new ICT tools to individuals and organisations working primarily in offline spaces is not easy. Recognising what can be described as ‘resistance’ to the uptake of web 2.0 and social networking tools, our approach has been to encourage users to understand the benefit of these tools to their work and local contexts. So rather than introducing new tools in isolation or emphasising tools that have little relevance or for practical reasons cannot be adopted, we have found that it is useful to start from the point of what organisations express as a need.

    The NGO Pulse portal - as a tool - helps communicate and share information about what organisations are working on and issues affecting the civil society sector in South Africa.

    It is your tool. We invite you to use it!

    Author(s): 
    NGO Pulse Team
  • Public Consultative Workshop on Proposed Definitions of Universal Access and Service

    The Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) will host a Consultative Public Workshop on 2&3 April 2009 in Johannesburg.

    The main objective of the workshop is to solicit public input from interested and affected parties and organisations on the definitions of universal access and universal service, needy persons and under-serviced areas.

    USAASA has published a Draft Position Paper in the Government Gazette No. 32048 dated 20 March 2009, which summarises the responses of 16 respondents to the Discussion Paper published  in August 2008, which set out proposed definitions of “universal access”, “universal service”, “under-serviced area” and “needy person”, as required by Chapter 14 of the Electronic Communications Act, 2005.

    USAASA decided to convene the two-day public workshop in order to afford the respondents and other affected parties an opportunity to present their final input into the process before the recommendations are submitted to the Minister for consideration.

    Enquiries: Trevor Nivi, USAASA, Tel: (011) 564-1600, trevor@usaasa.org.za

    Event start date: 
    02/04/2009
    Event end date: 
    03/04/2009
    Event venue: 
    Cedar Park Conference Centre, 120 Western Service Road, Woodmead, Johannesburg
    Event type: 
    Workshop
  • X for Democracy

    X for Democracy is a website for Youth produced by the South African Broadcasting Corporation Education and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). The website is aimed at helping users to learn more about elections as well as sharing their views. It provides useful information on the IEC and FAQs on elections.

    To explore the X for Democracy website, click here.
  • AfriGadget

    AfriGadget is a website dedicated to showcasing African ingenuity. A team of bloggers and readers contribute their pictures, videos and stories from around the continent. The stories of innovation are inspiring. It is a testament to Africans bending the little they have to their will, using creativity to overcome life’s challenges.

    To explore the site, click here.
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