Obami Aims to Make Education Social

The success of social media in Africa has led many to opt to start one. The power that lies beneath engaging users at a social level, still remains the reason why giants like Facebook and Google+ will dominate the social scene. Obami, an educational social network in South Africa, aims to harness the power of social media and deliver much needed relationship between teachers and students, online.

After much searching, HumanIPO got the benefit of speaking to one of the founders of the site, Barbara Mallinson. “Obami started as an ordinary social networking site but over time it’s become a ‘safe social learning network’,” she said. “Instead of trying to compete with Facebook or Twitter I decided to build for a niche market – that of schools and education,” a reason that sets Obami on its own league.

The bootstrapped company, has enjoyed free services from IS Labs, a South African initiative to support its local content. It was the first IS Labs project. Barbara and her husband funded the project from their own pocket.

As of February the site has over 25, 000 students and a number of teachers on the platform. “Our parent audience is really starting to grow nicely now as well,” she added.

And as she explains, Obami delivers more value. “Obami applies social networking technologies to the virtual learning environment so that teachers, learners and parents can connect with one another. The platform supports resource sharing, teaching and learning, as well as assessment and the tracking thereof. Obami is capable of covering all aspects of schooling in a socially engaging way,” Barbara explained.

This innovative platform is already being used outside Africa in countries such as Greece, France and the UK. In Africa, the majority of users are still in South Africa, with other African countries slowly warming up to the idea. Similar initiatives have been seen in Africa though. usePulse, a Cameroonian company, also aims to use the power of social media networks to engage student and their teachers. usePulse just secured a $10,000 seed funding from Cameroonian Investment Group.

But this does not faze Barbara: “By being a closed network for schools and offering a virtual learning environment, we believe Obami sets itself apart from other ‘social networks in education’.” Their revenue comes from running relevant advertisements on their site. “It hasn’t been a major focus of ours, and we’re soon to introduce a number of other revenue channels on top of this,” she said.

More innovations are set to hit the platform, Barbara promises. They acknowledge that mobile is big in Africa and they are working on apps that could help bring this interaction on the go. Obami is also planning major changes in the coming weeks that could elevate the platform further. “We’re due to release some really exciting things over the next few weeks – won’t say too much on it all now, but its serious stuff that’ll be worth checking out.” HumanIPO will definitely bring you more on this platform.

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