TEDx in a Box in Soweto - TEDxKliptown

At TEDGlobal 2010, TED and Nokia launched an initiative called TEDx In a Box. The idea being, to enable people in developing communities to host TEDx events using the technology supplied in the Box. How the box works is that you have two Nokia N8 phones, Nokia MD-8 speakers and an Optoma PK201 Pico Projector. With these, you should be able to play TEDTalks (which are preloaded) and also record live speakers at your TEDx event.

TEDxSoweto became the first recipient of “the box” in South Africa. We looked at the different parts of Soweto and decided to focus on Kliptown. Established around 1903, Kliptown is the oldest residential settlement in Soweto. Today approximately 80% of its 45,000 residents still do not have running water, basic sanitation or electricity. The community does not have a school, and children have to travel long distances to attend school in other parts of Soweto.

In looking for community members to work with, we found a youth development programme (Kliptown Youth Project) that runs a tutoring program for kids, a library, a feeding scheme and has a community hall that is equipped with one solar panel and a generator. The project has 300 XO computers from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

We hosted a half a day workshop with members the youth project to get a better understanding of the community needs. At the end of the day, we agreed that education is their number one priority. The theme for the event became Education and Technology.

On the 28th May 2011 we hosted TEDxKliptown with 4 speakers, a dance performance and 40 attendees.

Selecting which TEDTalks to play was easy. Almost everyone who was at the event knew of Professor Nicholas Negroponte and MIT. We played Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child talk and Pravan Misty’s Sixth Sense talk. As far removed from MIT as Kliptown is, the young people who are direct beneficiaries of the OLPC project could not only relate to Negroponte’s talk but could also see the possibilities that
Mistry’s sixth sense technology presents.

The speakers were all part of the Kliptown story:

Hannah Weber is a student at Dartmouth College but originally from Boston, Massachusetts, USA. She first visited Kliptown in 2005 when she was 15 years old. Getting back to Boston she and her sister raised funds to buy 100 XO computers from the OLPC organisation and sent them to the Kliptown Youth Project. Since then, the project has managed to get 200 more computers. She talked about finding hope in Kliptown and how she has witnessed the difference the project has made in the lives
of children in the community.

Thulani Madondo is the founder of the Kliptown Youth Project. After his studies, he wanted to make a contribution to his community. Together with other young people they started the project and never looked back. Through this he is currently assisting other projects in Rwanda and Swaziland to implement their OLPC programmes.

Simphiwe Mthembu was one of the first beneficiaries of the XO computer when they first arrived in South Africa in 2008. She attributes her success to having been exposed to the XO computers and understanding technology better.

Shelley Bragg works as a marketing consultant for the International School in Shanghai China. When her school wanted to start a gumboot dance project, she remembered visiting a community in Soweto where the kids were very good gumboot dancers. How can she bring them to Shanghai? She quickly remembered that the kids also had XO computers which were internet enabled and if she linked them to the school via Skype, then her students in China would understand. After several
Skype gumboot dance performances, the Kliptown Youth gumboot dancers were able to visit Shanghai and Beijing.

The technology in the “Box” had its challenges, but ultimately delivered a great event.

With one phone, you can show TEDTalks and project them to a white surface. The Nokia speakers are good for an audience of up to 30 people. The TEDTalks are pre-loaded onto the phone or you can upload new talks directly from TED.com using Wi-Fi or wireless 3G Technology provided by your local cellular phone company. The 16GB memory on the phone makes it possible to store up to 30 TED Talks. You can then use the second Nokia N8 phones, to record live speakers.

Like any TEDx event, some of the speakers had power point presentations and wanted to show video clips. We had to transfer the presentations and video clips from their laptops to one Nokia N8 phone via Bluetooth. The speakers could then use the phone to run through the presentations and play their clips. We then used the second phone to record the talks.

The next process is to edit all that into seamless TEDxKliptown talks.

The challenges? Well the battery life on the N8 phones is relatively ok. You can play up 6 TEDTalks or record four 18 minutes presentations. After this you need power supply. The Nokia MD-8 speakers did not work very well. Thanks to my Jawbone Jambox that I received in my TED 2011 gift bag we had backup speakers. Unfortunately the Optoma Pico Projector could only work for one hour without power
supply. The venue had a power source that we could use.

For the first time, we were able to demonstrate to the community of Kliptown that cellular phones and the use of mobile technology has a potential to transform their community. In the past hosting such an event might not have been possible without computers, electricity, sophisticated filming equipment and a big budget. With TEDx in a Box, the community was able to finally watch Professor Negroponte talk ,
witness how the XO computers have transformed their lives and begin to imagine what else is possible.

The total budget for the event was $200 which was mainly for coffee, biscuits and printing costs.

We decided that we will host bimonthly TEDxKliptown events starting again in August 2011 and are looking at possibilities of rolling out the project to other parts of South Africa that have similar challenges like Kliptown.

Written by Kelo Kubu, TEDxSoweto Organizer and TEDx Africa Ambassador

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