With the growth of social media tradition in South Africa we are now introduced to a very useful and handy tool called “Free Mobile Counselling Portal.” A company called RLabs in partnership with Vodacom Foundation and JamiiX are offering 100 Non-Governmental Organizations, non-profits, educational organisations, schools, community organizations and social groups the opportunity to leverage the power of mobile phone technology.
I personally think this will help a number of young people who are not freely out-spoken about the issues affecting them privately. This is a very good initiate for our country as it will help break the stigma associated with counseling by using a platform that youth are already comfortable with. Now it will be online like you’re in a normal conversation with your friend(s) while getting help on the GO. Kudos to RLabs.
I also see a huge challenge in the realness of this in terms of who will be feeding it with information from the side of those in need of help? Are they making use of it because it’s free and accessible? Is it really “free”? Well, that will depend on individual needs of course on using the tool.
According to RLabs this initial roll out will give organizations access to the JamiiX Education and Health portals, providing an opportunity to communicate and engage with their user-base via mobile platforms and instant messengers such as Mxit as a prime example. Marlon Parker, who is the founder of RLabs says: “With more than 30 million South Africans using mobile chat, social networks and instant messengers; it provides a unique opportunity for organizations to leverage this new communication platform amongst youth”.
They also stated that this great opportunity is only open to organisations operating in the Western Cape and RLabs will also provide workshops at NO COST on the platform and the concepts of mobile counselling and support. “We hope that through these partnerships and offering many more communities can be reached through the use of mobile technology and organisations being empowered will be able to increase their channels of support to serving the people in need” quoted their website on an article published on January, 31st 2012.
Let’s wait and see the success of this and hopefully it will soon roll out to the entire country, to also help them deliver in a broad manner on the promises attached to this “Free Counselling Portal.” As they claim it to be “free” still getting access to the platform they used as their prime example “Mxit” is not “free.”
I also hope that this portal will not end up being some sort of “advertising wagon” to rather the unhealthy online reading that the youth is already exposed to.
If your organisation is interested in being able to provide added services via Mxit and other related platforms like 2go (My suggestion), feel free to contact RLabs for more information. They are also planning to expand to other provinces down the line, we shall keep our ear the ground.