Craig Ross, innovations manager at Cape Town-based Reconstructed Labs (RLabs). Image by HumanIPO.
Craig Ross, innovations manager at Cape Town-based Reconstructed Labs (RLabs), spoke about social innovation, technology and grassroots at the Digital Services Africa conference underway in Johannesburg.
HumanIPO reported in January RLabs was committing ZAR300 million (US$300,000) to 800 scholarships aimed at the youth and females in Cape Town.
RLabs runs a number of technology projects to give community members seen as “bad” an opportunity to reconstruct their lives to the benefit of society.
Ross started a service through social chat apps Mxit and Jabber to offer support, motivation and encouragement to drug addicts who want to rehabilitate.
In a particular case, a methamphetamine (meth) addict was on the verge of killing her baby when RLabs stepped in.
“We saved a life with technology,” Ross said.
Fourteen members of the notorious 11,000-strong South African gang the Americans on the Cape Flats are now transforming the community through technology.
Social media still guarantees them their followers and they can share their stories and help others with similar roots to escape a destructive lifestyle.
“What can our startups and our entrepreneurs learn from that? It’s bootstrapping,” Ross said.
Teaching single parents how to share their stories is also helping restoration of family relationships caused through drugs, prostitution and gangsterism.
“We are all champions, we are all experts so if you want to innovative in your local communities you need to be an expert,” he said.
Another community member who continually struggled to find and keep a job started “a LinkedIn for poor people” where mobile CVs can be uploaded to find jobs.
The struggling man, called Terence Hendricks, started Uusi, a mobile platform with 1.5 million views per month and 300,000 active users.