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I feel like it is a David and Goliath month this month.

Technology trends shows that the digital divide between rich and poor countries is growing. While developed countries are expected to reach a broadband penetration rate of 28% in 2008, the corresponding rate for developing countries is just 3%. That is the reason why I am so excited about the Village Telco project that Steve is currently working on.

Also, Alexander Ponosov, the Russian schoolteacher who was put on trail for using Microsoft’s products illegally, even though they were pre-installed when the school bought them, has launched a campaign against.

We are helping to rally against the adoption of the OOXML standard and are imensley proud of South Africa and especially Geraldine FRASER-MOLEKETI for ensuring that Open Standards prevail.

The road to ‘open’ is a long one, but we are getting there.

What we do in this area:

“The cost of bandwidth in Africa poses a barrier to the continent’s effective participation in international trade and the knowledge economy, while limiting local markets and education. Without adequate bandwidth Africa runs the risk of being left behind in the global race. The Shuttleworth Foundation is, therefore, actively investing in a project portfolio that will contribute towards solving bandwidth limitations in the African context.”

This month’s highlights:

To democratisation the telecommunication infrastructure Steve Song have began publicising and promoting Village Telco model used by Dabba in explaining the concept and actively engaging with the African wireless networking community to build support for Village Telco concept. Discussions have also began with the CSIR, Cisco, and IT46 to lay the groundwork for a collaborative Open Source, VillageTelco initiative and much excitement is being stirred. David Rowe comments:

‘…key to large scale roll out is just 1 successful business. People are reluctant to innovate, but happy to copy.

Now that the business model side has been nailed I have nothing to do for the rest of this year -)

Exciting times indeed – just imagine communities controlling their own communications in this way, a really inspiring way to join the knowledge economy!

To help drive ‘Connected Cities’ we have made contact with project leader for Cape Town’s Dark Fibre initiative and arrange to meet to discuss progress to date and opportunities for the Foundation

Alison Gillwald has been working with us to drive the Telecommunication Policy piece of our work. We have agreed on strategy to make interventions at ICASA hearings over the next year. Breaking into policy groups, and gaining traction from great ideas posed is proving more and more problematic as industry ‘seals’ the decision making process. We are hoping to ensure they become more open and transparent.

In the process of building the networks, we have been meeting with people such as Goltz Wessman from Fastcomm and Elma Philanthropies.

Bandile Sikwane from iWeek and Jennigay Coetzer from Business Day, both did interviews and reports on Steve’s view of the industry, you can also find Steve’s commentary on this blog. On all subject from reforms happening in Kenya to the death of WiFi!

What we do in this area:

“The Shuttleworth Foundation is involved in research into the idea that the two core skills acquired by learners at school are communications and analysis. As such, the transfer of these skills should be prioritised – especially in the African context where resources are often scarce and fundamental skills require specific focus.”

This month’s highlights:

Steve Vosloo
has been researching mother-tongue education and will produce a paper on this topic in early April. This will be the first in a series of papers exploring key issues relevant to the this area of investment. The mother-tongue education research has involved conducting a literature survey as well as interviewing important stakeholders such as Professor Zubeida Desai (UWC), Professor Neville Alexander (UCT) and Anne Schlebusch, who headed up the Language Transformation Plan at the WCED. Really looking forward to reading it!

The next paper will be on literacy and numeracy, especially in the Foundation Phase (FP) of school. It will ask questions such as: What are they key related issues? How are they being addressed? What potential opportunities exist for the Shuttleworth Foundation to support the improvement of literacy and numeracy? To begin the research, Steve has met with the WCED team driving the 2006-16 Literacy and Numeracy Strategy for the Western Cape.

After some rounds of feedback and refinement, we have agreed upon process with Wordwise to implement a Teachable Agents (TA) pilot at 6 schools. We are currently engaging both Wordwise and the team at Stanford University behind the TA software, in order to work out a realistic plan and timeline for the project. Wordwise proposes 2 rounds to the research, the first being educator-focused (What do they think of the TAs?) and the second being learner-focused (Their perceptions? Any grade improvements? Etc.).

A UCT student doing a Masters in Media Theory and Practice has begun a 6-week research internship at the Foundation, supervised by Steve. He will produce a short paper on the potential for mobile learning among high school students in grades 10 to 12 in the Philippi township in Cape Town.

Steve comments on a how to stem the Matthew Effect in education. The “Matthew Effect” denotes processes whereby inequality is created or maintained. He also blogged his notes on the Integrated Education Program (IEP) Conference, touching of the subjects of how to improve the quality of primary education by supporting programmes in teacher education, as well as school management and governance.

What we do in this area:

“Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) were originally instituted to encourage the creation and invention of public goods for the benefit of society by allowing creators and inventors to protect their intellectual property. However, IPR has become overly restrictive in recent times as corporate interests have led to an ever increasing demand for lock-down on rights.

The Shuttleworth Foundation supports initiatives that call for the establishment of national and global IPR regimes that seek an appropriate balance between encouraging innovation and benefiting society, the original purpose of creating the rights. “

This month’s highlights:

South Africa’s standards making body sub-committee on open document formats again rejected OOXML as an ISO standard, a decision in which the Foundation’s participation was decisive. OOXML was however still approved as a ISO standard through a fast track process at ISO this month

The decision comes despite it being rejected by some of the worlds most populous and economically developing countries, various concerns about the technical quality of the standard and amid rumours of irregularities in national voting processes. Mark Shuttleworth commented on the process in his blog and on the results in the media, as did Andrew Rens.

We commend the South African standards making body for adhering to the decision of the sub-committee and supporting a single document standard. Perhaps it is time to have a Southern (BRICS) voice, an answer to the west when they demand and decree standards and IP regimes that do not work in the developing world.
Andrew Rens, IPR Fellow at the Foundation, participated in the EDGE IP Research Network and a
workshop in Hong Kong, where he presented a paper on ‘Treaty Provisions on Minimum Exceptions and Limitations for Education’. The paper, which focusses on substantive changes to international copyright law in the interest of education, will be published online in June.

Andrew also went to the Yale A2K Academy Planning Meeting in New York. The meeting, at which Southern researchers were well represented, explored ways to develop a forward thinking, pro-active global research community around Access to Knowledge (A2K) issues. This is a promising initiative and we will follow post-meeting developments closely.

Participating in these events has raised the necessity of increasing A2K research capacity in SA, and importance of co-operation with Brazil and India.

What we do in this area:

“Teachers, learners and authors around the world are increasingly seeing the potential of open educational resources. As part of a broader movement to open up education, these resources can increase access to learning opportunities and encourage more collaborative, student-centric learning. The Shuttleworth Foundation works closely with the innovators and activists who are bringing this movement to life.”

This month’s highlights:

Mark Horner and Eve Grey presented a well received talk on the Cape Town Declaration and its relevance to the higher education context in South Africa at the University of Cape Town (UCT). This was a pre-event for UCT signing the declaration. They plan to be the first University to sign, encourage all members (staff and students) to understand and share in the spirit of the declaration.

As part of an on-going need to get a reality check on what we are planning to invest in and create in the world of Open Educational Resources, it is important for us to know what is happening on the ground. How do teachers teach? What do they teach? Where are their pain points? This month, we visited local schools and met with teachers to find out more about how they used learning and teaching support materials. We also participated in a workshop on materials development and sharing aimed at Science teachers.

It’s clear that academics and teachers do develop their own materials, adapt existing materials to best suit their own context and readily share materials with their colleagues, but that this practice has not moved online yet. One the of main struggles is to find materials aligned to the South African schools curriculum online (and in print!).


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