Mxit education takes off

MXit Education Technology Mobile South AfricaMxit has signed up 5-million subscribers to its educational content, and 600 000 to its eight exam revision applications. Mxit believes this provides ample evidence that the average mobile phone can become a transformative education tool for learners.

Andrew Rudge, Chief of Insight and Reach at Mxit says, “mLearning is powerful because it breaks through the traditional barriers of time, location and the cost of delivering educational content. The power of the Internet in an educational context has always been that it simplifies access to content and the experts on that content. With Mxit we are taking that power and making it easily accessible on the average feature phone.”

QuizMax, which gives learners access to Maths, Physical Science and Life Sciences quizzes for grades 10, 11 and 12, is the most popular exam revision application on Mxit, with over 200 000 subscribers.

“The potential for QuizMax to improve learners’ ability to pass exams is undeniable. Last year our top achievers got over 92% in Maths and Physical Science and achieved their goals of securing scholarships and bursaries to study further,” says Ian McDougall, the founder of Learning to the Max Foundation, which developed QuizMax.

“Because our 1500 questions are always available, the learner is able to learn independently. It doesn’t matter where they are, what time it is or what their current ability level is. This flexibility and independence, combined with the emergence of a technology generation, means that mLearning tools like QuizMax have the potential to truly empower learners and possibly transform education,” concludes McDougall.

The revision apps available to all Mxit users include:

  • QuizMax: Maths, Physical Science and Life Sciences quizzes for grade 10,11 and 12 learners
  • Class of 2012 (DOBE): Tips and advice on study methods and additional study materials
  • ExamZone: Chat room for exam discussions
  • Everything Maths: Curriculum aligned textbooks with embedded videos, simulations, PowerPoint presentations and more.
  • Everything Science: Curriculum aligned textbooks with embedded videos, simulations, PowerPoint presentations and more.
  • CellSchool: Free video revision lessons to assist with exam preparation
  • Crunch The Numbers: Put Maths skills to the test, and possibly win a bursary
  • Dr Math: A Maths-tutoring programme developed by the CSIR Meraka Institute.

source: Gadget Technology Magazine

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SMS' Can Relieve Stressed, Lonely People

SMS Text Messages Relieve Stressed, Lonely PeopleBERKELEY — Text messaging often gets a bad rap for contributing to illiteracy and high-risk behaviour such as reckless driving. But a social welfare professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has found an upside to texting, especially for people who feel stressed out, isolated and alone.

Text messages in cognitive behaviour therapy can make people feel less isolated

Adrian Aguilera, a clinical psychologist who treats many low-income Latinos for depression and other mental disorders, said his patients report feeling more connected and cared for when they receive text messages asking them to track their moods, reflect on positive interactions, and take their prescribed medications.

“When I was in a difficult situation and I received a message, I felt much better. I felt cared for and supported. My mood even improved,” reported one Spanish-speaking patient in Aguilera’s cognitive behavior therapy group at San Francisco General Hospital.

The project began in 2010 when Aguilera developed a customized “Short Message Service (SMS)” intervention program, with the help of UCSF psychologist Ricardo Munoz,  in which Aguilera’s patients were sent automated text messages prompting them to think and reply about their moods and responses to positive and negative daily interactions.

The psychologists published the results of the project last year in the journal, Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Aguilera has since been awarded a $75,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“We are harnessing a technology that people use in their everyday lives to improve mental health in low-income, under-served communities,” said Aguilera, whose passion for addressing mental health issues among the poor was sparked while growing up in a Mexican immigrant community in Chicago.

Recent statistics bear out Aguilera’s outreach strategy. The 2011 Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project survey found that African American and Latino mobile phone owners send and receive more text messages than do Caucasians.

Of the 2,277 adult cell phone users surveyed by the Pew Foundation, the most active senders and receivers of text messages (at least 50 messages a day) were non-whites, earned incomes below $30,000 and did not graduate from high school.

Aguilera came up with the texting idea when he realized that many of his patients had difficulty applying the skills they learned in therapy to their daily lives, possibly because of the many stressors they routinely faced. They could not afford laptops, electronic tablets or smart phones, but most had a basic cellular phone and a prepaid monthly plan.

“The people I wanted to impact directly didn’t have as much access to computers and the Internet,” Aguilera said. “So I thought about using mobile phones to send text messages to remind them to practice the skills covered in therapy sessions.”

The feedback from patients offers new insight into the human need for regular contact or check-ins for mental health professionals, even if only through automated technology, Aguilera said.

While the text-messaging sessions are designed to last only a certain number of weeks, about 75 percent of the patients requested that they continue receiving the messages. When the program stopped for a week due to technical problems, some really noticed the difference.

“When it stopped, I missed it,” the patient reported. “My life is so crazy, I need a reminder to think about how I feel.”

Adrian Aguilera, a UC Berkeley social welfare professor and clinical psychologist

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15 Minutes with Ramon Thomas

This interview was compiled for a weekly feature in the Daily Dispatch newspaper in East London:

Online behaviour expert Ramon Thomas talks to the Dispatch about technology and how it affects you. Profiles will appear at www.dispatch.co.za

Q: YOU describe yourself as being an online behaviour expert. What does that entail?
A: My field of research is the overlap between psychology, human behaviour and technology, especially the Internet.
It includes how we use the technology and how it changes our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual states.
New research from a book, iBrain, shows greater use of different parts of the brain, improved multi-tasking and the ability to process more information, faster, in the new generation called digital natives – basically people born post 1990.

Q: You’ve done a lot of research into online dating. Can you share some of your findings with us?
A: Recent reports claim online dating is growing by more than 300 percent in South Africa. Female users are growing at twice the rate of male users from what I’ve seen since 2005. The demographics have also changed to be more representative of the South Africa population as more black users turn to the Internet to find love.

Continue reading “15 Minutes with Ramon Thomas”

 

Report On Cellular Payment Systems In South Africa

This report is republished with permission from the author, Reuel Leach. You may contact him for more advise on saving money when using cellphones and Internet access on his cell 082 211 2619

Do you know what you are paying on your cellular bill every month. Maybe you do, but have you ever wondered what the networks costs are? Would you like to see something published on this subject? Read on. Its time that people started to get answers to these questions.

Lets start off with GSM. It’s a radio signal just like any radio frequency. You have a radio? You have a television, you pay a licence which is a minimum cost to get messages ( or Signals with information) to your home, office or car. With a radio frequency you choose which signal you want to pick up the messages you want to listen to or “watch”.

So what frequencies are there? Here are but a few common ones:

1.Short wave
2.Medium Wave
3.Frequency Modulation (FM)
4.Wi-Fi (Wireless)
5.Bluetooth
6.GSM
7.Edge
8.GPRS
9.UMTS (3G) which consists of data for internet and 3G video calls
10.HSDPA & HSUPA
11.Infrared

Lets focus now on the formats of some of these signals. What do I mean by that? Well, you listen to a CD with music of your favourite artist and its recorded in WAV format. You might be familiar to the more common format used called MP3. Now lets make a comparison with these two formats. WAV will give you 700 megabytes over 80 minutes and MP3 gives you about 70 MB ( megabytes ) over 80 minutes. When you record something with your cellphone, you might use AAC or a similar format which might give you around 2-4 megabytes an hour.

The format of GSM is AMR, it could be similar to AAC, but this is where the interesting part comes. Lets look at the speed of these frequencies. These are true speed real life situations, not what they tell you at the shops

True Speed example in South Africa

  • GSM – 6 to 13 kilobits per second
  • GPRS 1 to 6 kilobits per second
  • EDGE 6 to 25 kilobits per second
  • UMTS 30 to 120 kilobits per second
  • HSDPA 50 to 200 kilobits per second

But if you tried to do a voice call over GPRS or EDGE you might find it a bit choppy. Ok here is the first big issue. A voice call can be easily done one EDGE using Skype or MSN and the maximum you will use is around 2.5 MB an hour. At the current data rates an unbundled GPRS? EDGE? 3G connection will cost you R2/MB which is the most expensive DATA rate. If you use a data bundle you will go as low as R0.19/MB so an hours call on Skype voice to voice will cost you in the region of R0.46 and R5 an HOUR! But if you use your normal Cellular phone for the same time, it will cost you R90 to R180 an Hour! So lets compare R0.46 to R180 an hour which most people are paying. Are you going to do something about this….

You should resort to these forms of technology:

  1. Skype
  2. Google Talk
  3. Mxit
  4. Nimbuzz

Heres the real shocker! Do you know what the most expensive form of communication in the world is. And it probably in South Africa. Its called SMS. Yes you thought it was cheaper than a call. Think again. Here is the simple price plan comparison

Let me explain this bit by bit. 1 sms is 160 characters. That includes the spaces in between. I you type an A4 page there is place for approximately 3680 characters with a font of 10 on it. Divide 3680 into 160 and that gives ou 23 sms messages. If you pay the normal day time rate it will cost you at 85 cents R19.55 PER PAGE and after hours at 35 cents an sms it costs you R8.05 so its far more than a page.

Let compare this to Skype or mxit this one page will be only 27 Kilobytes and at R2 per megabye it will cost you R0.05 cents per page and if you are using a data bundle then it will be as low as R0.005 per page!

Ok so what does an SMS cost us per Kilobyte?
1 sms = 140 bytes = 7.3142 sms = 1kb
85 cents x 7.3 = R6.21/kb

What does an SMS cost us per Megabyte?
1024 x R6.21 = R6359/mb
(normal data costs between R0.19 to R2.00 per megabyte)

What does an SMS cost us per Gigabyte
1024 x R6359 = R6 511 656 per GIGABYTE

So if you were to write or type a 2 page letter and put it in an envelope it will cost you around R2.50 to R3.00 depending on paper and stamp costs. If you had to type the equivalent in SMSs you will pay for a 2 page letter:- R39.10 so its R40 to send a letter.

No why are the networks so expensive. If technology has become so cheap, why have they not given us the GPRS SMS function which almost every cellular phone has the function of? It will cost us a few cents only. If you connect your cellular phone to a PC or had Skype capabilities you could do a full skype call on 3G or HSDPA signal for between R0.39 and R5 per hour or a video call at R2.34 and R24 per hour!

If you had to send someone a full WAV cd over the internet at R0.19 per megabyte it will cost you 700 x R0.19 which is R133.00 and that’s 80minutes of music. If you spoke at the average cellular call of R2.50 (hidden costs excluded) at 80 minutes you will pay R200 for the call. Your bit rate for the wave 8MB per minute and your cellular call is 0.360mb per minute! So the intensity and quality is much better!

I suggest that people all cut off their smss, get Mxit and Skype and call over those mediums to make calls and send messages until the networks in the future.

I reckon that Wou-daar-Kom and Empty-N don’t pay more than R0.39 to R0.40 per hour for your call!
If they are paying more than that they should discontinue this old technology and give us the better faster stuff I mentioned above!

You may download the original report with graphics using this link: Report on Cellular Pricing Reuel Leach.

 

A deeper look at MXit's war on porn and cyber criminals

This was announced a few days ago. And I would like to give some perspective before you read the official statement from MXit below.

MXit has been around for a number of years. And the media has enjoyed blaming MXit for everything from distribution of pornography to examination results dropping since its introduction. As a user of MXit on a daily basis, I found this tool to be one of the most revolutionary technologies ever created. The reason for this statement is that MXit truly provides a means of communicating without further enriching the mobile operators in South Africa.

So why did it take MXit so long to make this announcement? It does not matter any more. The importance of this announcement cannot be underestimated. When you are the leading technology in the mobile space with anywhere from 17 – 19 million users in this country, whatever stance you take will be taken seriously by other players in the same space. So what this statement below means is that other companies in the mobile Internet business will also have to make very serious commitments to fighting pornography and cyber criminals. More over, this statement, when it eventually filters down to parents and schools will encourage the prosecution of those who abuse the Mxit platform.

Remember you can book Ramon Thomas for your school or church conference

MXit declares war on porn and cyber criminals

Herman Heunis founder CEO MXit25 March 2010 – MXit today announced a zero-tolerance policy against offenders who abuse its online community. Anyone posting explicit or offensive material in public areas within MXit will from now on be banned from its systems without warning.

“For too long, a group of less than 0.1% of our user base has tarnished our reputation with their continual abuse of our community through unsavoury, and sometimes criminal, behaviour,” says Herman Heunis, CEO and founder of MXit.

“Until very recently, we had great difficulty in identifying and tracking these degenerates, but with new developments, we are now in a situation where they leave a definite electronic footprint.

“Our users’ right to privacy is, and will always be, of paramount importance. We have no intention of imposing censorship on communication between users as their privacy is a constitutional right, just like private communication via letters, SMS, MMS, e-mails and other mediums. However, when someone publishes offensive content or uses our platform to prey on innocent people, we shall remove them from our system.

“Furthermore, any suspicious behaviour indicating possible criminal intention will be handed over to the Cybercrime Unit of the SAPS as currently required by law.

“Our foremost responsibility is to protect our 19+ million registered user base that makes up our community, and as such, we will do everything in our power to identify these offenders and help the authorities bring them to book,” says Heunis.

“Lastly, I want to strongly urge users never to exchange personal information with strangers, and certainly not to meet them in person. Inviting strangers to be your friend on MXit, or any other social network for that matter, is exactly the same as opening your front door without knowing who is on the other side. It just isn’t smart,” concludes Heunis.

Download my Parents Guide to MXit today

 

Using MXit on Your BlackBerry

BlackBerry Curve 9320Even though BlackBerry has it own Instant Messaging software, 17 million MXit users make it very appealing to use the MXit application on your BlackBerry with unlimited Internet.

So, you’ve got a Blackberry and you want to MXit with your friends. Now you can – just download MXit and ‘Join the MXit Evolution’

1. To download MXit Blackberry – open your browser and type in http://www.mxit.com/wap
2. Quick and easy upgrades – registration info is captured in MXit, so it’s only one click from the WAP site when you need to upgrade.
3. Change your language as you go – this can now be done inside MXit – no need to download again. Go to Menu -> Settings -> Language.
4. No more mood swings – your mood and presence will not disappear when you log out.
5. Never be late again – check the time in your chat screen.
6. Say goodbye– set a template farewell message: Menu -> Settings -> My Profile. When you log off, this message will be sent to all the contacts you have chatted to.
7. Forward frenzy – you can now forward to a list of contacts or to a group – remember this costs 10 Moola per person.
8. Invite all your friends – send an SMS referral. Go to Menu -> contacts -> Invite via SMS. Type in the cell number and invite message. Remember, your service provider will bill you at standard SMS rates.
9. Personalise – you can load a picture as your skin background (coming soon).

source: BlackBerry Application on MXit

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CSSA Event – The Dangers of Children Using the Internet and Other Technologies

Computer Society SouthAfricaIn a perfect world, the Internet would automatically shield children from contact with questionable content and dangerous people. Unfortunately, nobody exercises complete control over the online world in any centralized manner. What is considered illegal in one country may not even be considered an issue in another. This danger has been extended to free-for-all mobile IM chatrooms without moderation or age restrictions. How do we as parents, educators and IT Professionals equip ourselves for this crisis. How do we identify and deal with problems before our children are exposed to dangerous situations.

The Panel:

Adrie Stander is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Information Systems at the University of Cape Town since 1999. He has more than 30 years experience in the computer industry and has done research in many diverse areas such as the psychological aspects of computer use and data communications. He is currently responsible for the first computer forensics course to be offered by a South African university.

Naomi van Wyk is a Clinical Psychologist and works in the field of parent education. She runs a private practice in Stellenbosch and presents workshops to parents and teachers on the prevention of child sexual abuse. She has written a book about the subject which is soon to be published called Safe and Sure.

Pieter Nel started dabbling with software and electronics as a teenager in the mid-eighties. After postgraduate studies, he spent a number of years with Flextronics Design working on projects for companies such as Intel and Thales before joining MXit’s original mother-ship, Swist, where he managed software projects for the local mobile operators. He joined MXit in May 2008 as Chief Technology Officer and life began in earnest.

The presentations will be followed by a Q&A session.

Who should attend?

This presentation will be of value to educators, parents and all concerned Professionals in the ICT sector.

Date: 20 August 2009

Time: 15:00 sharp to end 18:30

Venue: The Nassau Centre, Groote Schuur High School, 76 Palmyra Rd, Newlands (map will be provided on booking)

Parking: Available on grounds

Cost: R30.00 per person; R20.00 Groote Schuur School staff. BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL.

The Q & A. will be followed by an opportunity to network. Light refreshments will be provided.

To Book: Info@interware.co.za or Lilian at (021) 447-8450

By: 18 August 2009 This event has been kindly sponsored by PANDA

 

How to deal with increased abuse of MXit or Facebook

Recent media reports indicate another spike in MXit related incidents ranging from teen abductions to children spreading pornography. On the business side MXit is entering online payments and mobile banking arena and will probably continue it’s relationship with MNET Idols reality TV show facilitating voting for the contestants. Families, schools and communities have always been up in arms over the last three years. In my public talks to schools and church groups I have tried my best to explain both the pro’s and the con’s to my audiences.

When children get access to technology like cellphones or the Internet at an early age, they often do so without any guidelines. So it becomes very important for parents to understand what those guidelines are and to adopt them from an early age. If not they run the risk of these online incidents that take place on MXit or Facebook for that matter to spill over into their daily lives. The incidents appear to be on the increase because MXit user base has continued to grow and now has over 11 million registered users. The number of international users are also on the increase, which wides the possibilities for abuse from people in other countries with your children in South Africa.

Unlike computers there is no software available to block or track what people do on cellphones. Each make of a cellphone practically runs a different operating system, which makes it difficult for software developers to create these software so freely available on the Internet for PC users. Both Vodacom and MTN have some limited mechanism for parental control. In all cases I encourage parents to install those options where avaialable. Please remember it will not block or control what children can do on MXit. The MXit platform exists outside of these parent control measures. So it sounds like you’re back to square one.

What parents can do is focus on open and regular dialogue with your children. All I’m saying is the basics of parenting. One specific thing I encourage parents to do is to begin using MXit themselves. In the first place it begins to demystify the technology for the parents themselves and it also shows the kids that parents are willing or able to learn and understand.  In many cases I believe children are very open to showing their family members how to benefit from these fun technologies. In most cases the approach from the parents is one of control because of a lack of understanding.

Anyway here’s some basic guidelines to follow from MSNBC slightly adapted.

Teach your children to:
# Think before they click: With whom are they chatting (MXit) or e-mailing (Facebook), what are they saying and how are they saying it? Will the person on the other end know they are joking?
# Walk away from the computer or put the cellphone down and “Take 5” before responding to something that upsets them online
# Avoid spreading rumours, assisting in cyberbullying or sharing private communications online.
# Follow the golden rule of cyberspace: Don’t do anything online that you wouldn’t do in real life!

Follow responsible safety practices yourself on your computer:
# Install spyware and adware blocking software on your computer
# Make sure you have a working firewall on your computer
# Install anti-virus software and update it regularly
# Take advantage of spam-blocking tools offered by your Internet provider or e-mail software

 

MXit for BlackBerry and iPhone being rolled out, instant messaging synchronization on its way

MXit instant messaging growsInstant messaging platform MXit announced that it has exceeding 11 million users and became the number one method of communicating with youth.

“Being able to connect to the internet from a mobile phone is critical in a world that is relying more-and-more on not merely existing online, but also engaging actively. MXit transcends international borders, race and financial barriers and allows users to relate to one another in a manner that is based on friendship, networking and even learning,” says Juan du Toit, marketing manager for MXit.

According to the company, the global market for mobile internet will increase from 578 million users in 2008 to over 1,712 million in 2013. This is a whopping growth of 196%. Of the eight global regions, Africa and the Middle East will see the second largest increase in mobile internet users (414%).

“We are happy with our growth, but our target is firmly set on becoming one of the biggest instant messaging mobile networks in the world and the preferred mobile social network for communicating with young people in Africa and globally,” says Du Toit.

The company has its sights set on increasing its footprint in Africa and Asia and has already attracted more than 1.2 million Indonesian users.

“It isn’t rocket science, for us it’s simply understanding the mobile environment and the opportunity and providing something that will excite our users,” explains Du Toit.

“Initially, there was a need to establish a fun and fresh platform where MXit users could communicate cheaply. Africa, and especially South Africa, has some of the most expensive mobile rates in the world, but with MXit there is just about no charge for sending messages.”

There are in excess of 3 billion mobile users globally, and according to Nielsen/NetRating, the next billion are expected to use their mobile phones to access the internet for the first time.

Social networking platforms grew by 47% in the year ending April 2008. According to Juniper Research, the value of the user generated content market will grow from USD$1.1 billion in 2007 to USD$7.3 billion in 2013.

The company is rolling out a series of products that will enhance its usability and increase its penetration into the global market. This includes MXit for BlackBerry and iPhone, as well as the ability to synchronise its network by adding other popular instant messaging contacts such as ICQ, MSN and Yahoo messenger to the MXit profile.

 

MXit Drug Counselling at 27Dinner in Port Elizabeth

Marlon Parker, Brent Williams and Ramon Thomas at Highway Africa, Rhodes University in GrahamstownMarlon Parker will be visiting Port Elizabeth this week to present an inspirational talk at the regular 27Dinner event this Thursday in Port Elizabeth. The 27Dinner events are free events where geeks and non-geeks get together and discuss technology. The purpose of the 27Dinner events is to create awareness about how technology can be used to change in society and also for entrepreneurship and income generation. And the events happen on the 27th of the month in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. This will be the 3rd 27Dinner event in the Nelson Mandela Bay area.

A big part of the motivation for bringing Marlon Parker to Port Elizabeth is to kick start the DAS@MXit in Nelson Mandela Bay area. Over the last three years MXit has grown to over 10 million registered users. This platform, the most widely used instant messaging platform among people 12-25 years old is the most practical method of providing online counselling. In North America and other parts of the world Internet-based online counselling has been available for years now. However, due to the cost of bandwidth in South Africa, cellphone-based online counselling is more practical alternative.

The other guest speakers will be confirmed today and their information posted on www.27dinner.com where you have to register and add your name to the particular event you would like to attend, in the city of your own choice. Stormhoek wines have sponsored free bottles of wine in Cape Town and Johannesburg. I have yet to persuade them to send some wine to Port Elizabeth for our enjoyment.

This is also the final function for the year that the NETucation team will be organising because we are shifing our focus inwards until 1 March 2009. Planning my 2009 schedule is going to be one of the key success factors to grow the audience to this blog as well as to my other online efforts.