The Yoza Project : Cellphones and ‘mlearning’ in South-Africa.

On: April 29, 2011
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About Elias van Hees
Elias van Hees is currently a MA student of New Media, he studied at the University of Rotterdam and received his Bachelor Degree in Information Technology and Communication (2009). Elias is a self-employed web strategist, more information is available on Interests: social media, research, politics, music, webdevelopment, seo, branding, concepting, user experience and usability.


Storytelling is the conveying of narratives, an idea as old as human history itself. The origins of narration are difficult to grasp, and because this phenomenon plays such a prominent role in most of our lives, no one is able to imagine a life without it. Storytelling is an essential condition in order to communicate.

Basically, what the media does is bring stories to a public. What I find interesting is how the media presents and publishes news (stories), mediated through multiple channels. Another important domain that provides this function is education, the environment in which children spend most of their time.

As printed literature subsides and new technologies take over with the release of e-readers, the iPad and other tablets presented as alternatives for printed literature, how will information provision within education develop? What will be our future reading, writing and learning solutions?

An interesting project is The Yoza Project, initiated by Steve Vosloo and originally known as m4Lit (mobile phones for literacy). Vosloo believes that mobile phones, games and digital media are the future of Africa’s education. The project was launched in 2009 as a pilot initiative to explore whether teens in South Africa will read stories on their mobile phones. He believes mobile solutions are tools for change in South Africa and bases his ideas on the success of M-novels in Japan, which became such a trend that the best m-novels came out in print as well.

“Bottom line: Throughout the year I have said, and still say, that the cellphone is a powerful learning and communication tool. Instead of viewing it as a distraction and a hindrance to education, I believe it should be viewed as an essential part of the solution. It is the e-reader of Africa, a device onto which we can quickly and easily publish content to a wide audience, as well as through which young people are given a voice. The high-levels of engagement on Yoza has shown that participatory culture is alive and well in Africa, although here it is via MXit comments and not Youtube videos.” (On

Learning by use of mobile solutions is called mlearning: “Any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies.” (In Guidelines for learning in a mobile environment)

Technological and social divides are often intertwined. When both divides are bridged, technological progress plus meaningful use of these tools may result in social change. Yoza is available on MXit in South Africa and Kenya and is said to be the bridge between non-profit organisations, governments, corporates and (young!) people. See the reports page for the latest project statistics and previous reports.

Yoza shows us the entire concept of ‘bookness’ needs reinvention. And the rise of other mlearning projects contribute to the question of how we will (and should) publish and provide education in the future – questions which will also be addressed during the coming Unbound Book Conference.

TEDx Soweto: Steve Vosloo is the fellow for 21st Century Learning at the Shuttleworth Foundation.


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