A serious challenge facing many young people in South Africa growing up in townships and rural communities is low computer literacy and lack of access to the internet. Low-income households cannot afford computers and young people who attend schools in townships and rural communities often do not have access to computer labs. As a result, they enter tertiary institutions or the workplace without ever having used a computer.
The Siyafunda Community Technology Centre (Siyafunda CTC) implements information and community knowledge centres (CKC) throughout South Africa where people can access computers, the Internet, and other digital technologies that enable them to gather information, create, learn, and communicate with others while developing essential digital skills. The focus is on the use of digital technologies to support community, economic, educational, and social development, thus reducing isolation, bridging the digital divide, promoting health issues, creating economic opportunities, and reaching out to youth.
Siyafunda (a Zulu word meaning “we are learning”) aims to empower communities by providing easy access to CKCs, educate communities through e-learning, and e-connect communities by providing access to the Internet and other technologies.
Since 2006, Siyafunda has already established more than 200 CKCs nationally which have helped unlock the youth’s potential for creativity and productivity, and play a significant role in driving innovation and revitalising communities. Using a social enterprise model, the centres generate some income to sustain themselves by providing affordable training programmes and services.
For many, these centres offer their first exposure to a computer and the opportunity to research and prepare assignments, access online services or apply for employment, all life-changing experiences.
More than one million people have already received training at CKCs, including unemployed and employed youth, high school learners, university students, women and girls, and people with disabilities. Many trainees have gone on to open and manage centres themselves, opening doors to opportunities for others in their communities.
Key to much of Siyafunda’s success is the mutually beneficial relationships which it has established with more than 50 partners from local, provincial and national government, as well as schools, universities, the private sector, and social organisations. Siyafunda places a strong focus on “Community, Public and Private Partnership (CPPP)” in all its activities, and these partnerships have enabled it to implement CKCs in communities throughout South Africa, thereby making its vision – “Empowering Educating E-connecting Communities” – a reality.
The unique role and contribution of Siyafunda have been widely recognised, and it is the recipient of numerous local and international awards. Some of these include the 2009 Inyathelo Philanthropy Award for Exceptional Work in Philanthropy; 2010 Cisco Academy Outreach Award Southern Africa: Programme to Underserved Communities; 2011 Clinton Global Initiative Award: Collaboration & Partnerships between NGOs; 2011 e-India Awards: Winner for the Telecentre Innovative Grassroots Telecentre – Jury Choice; 2012 BHP Billiton Achiever Awards: Science and Technology; 2013 Technology Top 100 Awards: Special Award Adjudicators Commendation; 2014 Best Corporate Citizen and Partner in Youth Development – City of Ekurhuleni Metro Council; 2014 Cisco Network Academy Award for Best NGO; 2015 African Eduweek Awards Finalist in 3 categories – ICT, Community Awards, and NGO of the Year; and 2015 Skills Summit Development Achiever Awards: Best Training Partnership Programme.
There is a huge demand from many communities in previously disadvantaged urban townships and rural areas for Siyafunda’s services and community knowledge centres. Unfortunately, it is not in a position to expand its network fast enough in response to this demand given limited resources