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Jamiix: from Cape Flats to the world 2

New social media aggregator Jamiix, which was developed in the Western Cape’s impoverished Cape Flats, is set for global launch. Jamiix works by bringing social media and instant messaging functionality into a single application, allowing users to manage many accounts, and carry on several conversations at the same time, using a computer or mobile phone.

Jamiix developer and CEO Marlon Parker describes himself as a social entrepreneur. An avid blogger and tweeter, he holds a masters degree in Information Technology (IT) and is working on with his PhD at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, where he has lectured in IT since 2000.

Parker’s thesis, due for completion in 2010, focuses on the use of technology to facilitate change in communities.

The new media specialist and his team have worked for almost three years to develop Jamiix, and their efforts come to fruition on 8 June when the site goes live.

The tool gets its name from the Swahili word “jamii”, which means “social” or “community”. The x represents an exchange between users.

“[We hope that Jamiix] will prove to be more than just an average aggregator for social networks and instant messengers,” wrote Parker on his blog, “but will come with a little dash of colourfulness that will certainly change communication channels using Web 2.0.”

The Jamiix team identified a desperate need in their community for affordable and accessible communications, especially in terms of social services. Many people need support but can’t afford to run up big bills on a landline, likewise small organisations and service providers also have to keep an eye on the phone budget ‒ they turn instead to the cheaper alternatives of social media sites, text messages, and instant messaging.

At the same time, the team was aware that mobile phones are the most commonly used piece of technology in communities. Building on this realisation, they designed an application that provides a single interface for all these services.

The application is aimed at individuals and organisations alike, and has been tested by NGOs such as the National Aids Helpline and the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Developing organisations especially, that provide support services such as counselling, information and education, marketing, and call centre operations, will benefit as they need dedicate just one adviser to handle multiple conversations.

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

The project received funding from the South African Finland Partnership, and consequently has been able to set up operations in the UK, Finland and Malaysia.

Passion for community development

Parker is deeply committed to community development and upliftment through the innovative use of technology – this gives direction to his research.

Two years ago he pioneered a MXit drug counselling service known as the Advice Support Network. This innovative mobile platform enables South Africans to receive online counselling on substance abuse, domestic violence and HIV/Aids. In April 2010 it surpassed the 50 000-conversation mark.

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By Africa The Good News

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi