Africa in Virtual Worlds

…Journal of our Experiences with Social Media and Virtual Worlds to date…

Second Life Africa hits 100 Members!

In the second week of September 2007, our in-world group SECOND LIFE AFRICA reached its 100 membership mark – without any active recruitment – simply by word of mouth and interest from SL residents. We are truly encouraged by the enthusiasm with which people from all over the world joins our mission to create an authentic African presence in virtual worlds which echo the reality of Africa in transparent ways…

Enakai Ultsch (co-founder of Uthango, and visionary) has been spending more and more time in SL the past month to ensure the RL/SL integration for the company and direct the strategy…

EnakaiAlly01

Our first world ended this same week on a high with 36 fieldworkers from Guguletu giving feedback on the recent skills audit that we conducted in the township. We interviewed 12 500 residents – some living in adverse poverty, and most unemployed – to establish the skills set in the community and work (with the residents) on a strategy to give them access to meaningful training opportunities and possibly employment. The project was made possible by the Danish International Development Agency (Danida) and we implement our unique communityMapping(TM) technology.

Income is everything, and skilled residents expressed the need for some form of information centre where they can find opportunities to use their skills to earn money for basic goods – to provide for the family. The fieldworkers that participated in the compiling the skillsMap(TM) for Guguletu wore Uthango T-shirts specially made for the project, with the slogan ‘Dare to Dream’ that captures their spirit of striving for more…

 

GugsT

Today, we took a photo of Enakai Ultsch (co-founder of Uthango) and Alanagh Recreant (me) in front of the beautiful Zimbabwean art piece “Women carrying Water” of Itai Vangani, at our Uthango offices in Second Life. We are wearing the special, limited edition t-shirts made by Hastings Bournemouth with another Uthango slogan – COURAGE IS CONTAGIOUS – on the back! The painting drew my thoughts to the real life crisis playing itself out in Zimbabwe at this very moment – where fresh running water is a luxury, and food has been steadily become less and less available.

AllyEnakai

The reality of Zimbabwe is simply a disaster, a human tradegy (even worst than Dafur according to humanitarians!) for which the world seems to have closed their eyes… BBC News recently covered an upsetting factual story about the devastation in Zimbabwe and I found myself questioning my energies spent in SL for some time thereafter. Then I realised that SL is indeed a powerful stage to tell the stories from Africa, to find the resources needed… to make a difference in a small way for the Zimbabweans we personally know and who carry the burden of their starving families. I see more and more highly qualified job seekers (engineers, accountants, medical staff) from the adjacent Zimbabwe here in Cape Town, far South… competing in the same space for limited basic jobs (gardening, domestic work) with South Africans – many of the 12 500 hopeful residents of Guguletu, who have lived here for years are now finding their own desperation for opportunities turn into xenophobia…

One wonders how a new virtual t-shirt celebrating 100 members in Second Life Africa can bring any joy, when our hearts are breaking for those we encounter every day – the fruitless citizenship of a country their only remaining posession, a country now spiraling into a certain socio-economic melt-down with Zimbabwe having one of the fastest shrinking economies in the world. It places our priorities into perspective once again. It is after all the only reason we, Uthango Social Investments, are IN a ‘Second Life’ – to draw benefit for the first lives of many Africans. Whether we will be able to make this connection between SL and RL with integrity – to channel actual benefit down to communities – will be our greatest test and legacy.

One thing we DO know…… it will not be possible to make any impact in SL for RL benefit without our dedicated group members in Second Life… our first 100, who believe in our vision: We salute you! We hope that our collective courage will be contagious so that many more people will join us, and that our energy will flow freely between our first and second lives in Africa.

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One thought on “Second Life Africa hits 100 Members!

  1. Wow. This is excellent news in the context of the Digital Divide… a little hope. 🙂

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