Steve is a mobile learning specialist with particular experience in Africa. Mobile learning, mobiles for development, digital media and participatory culture interest him. He is currently the Head of Mobile at Pearson South Africa in Cape Town.
Previously Steve was a Senior Project Officer in mobile learning at UNESCO, Paris; the Mobile Impact Evangelist for mLab Southern Africa; the Fellow for 21st Century Learning at the Shuttleworth Foundation, and a fellow of the Reuters Digital Vision Program at Stanford University.
Steve holds a Masters degree in Information Systems from UCT. He was in Johannesburg and London during the dot com boom working in design agencies creating platforms and portals.
“It was a very interesting time! I moved back to South Africa in 2000 and I actually read an article on the plane. I picked up this copy of a Yahoo magazine, called ‘Internet Life’. The article was about people who were successful dot commers who had made and then lost millions. Basically they were left with nothing but their amazing technical skills. With no funders left, they approached non-profits saying let’s really look how technology can be used for social good. After that, my life changed.”
Steve enjoyed working in technology in the commercial space, but this article made him realise that using technology to address social issues was actually the area that he wanted to be in. His focus shifted from the tech side to looking at how people use technology to improve their lives.
He worked in e-Goverment for a while and in provincial government in the Western Cape. He then did some research around youth and digital media and how young people use it to tell their own stories and to communicate with each other. The project he ran was called the Digital Hero Project. His scholarship at Stanford furthered his research and experience in how young people use digital video format to creatively express their stories and how it improves cross cultural awareness.
During his time as a Shuttleworth Fellow, the focus was on how technology could be used in innovative ways to support and improve education. That was where he founded the mobiles for literacy project.
“There it was very obvious that you have devices in young people’s hands and I knew it could give them a voice that went beyond visual. Young people were interacting with text on their cell phones in the form of chats and messages but we weren’t sure whether they’d read longer form stories. That was what the Mobile for Literacy project set out to establish. We knew it happened in developed countries like Japan. Since 2000 mobile novels there have been hugely popular. So we published a story and what an overwhelming response.”
With the knowledge that mobile novels were engaging and interesting and could be used to increase access to text and to enable reading, it followed that it could also be used for engagement and participation by allowing young people to comment on stories. They actually write and engaged with content in new and exciting ways that was not possible for them to do with print.
“I’ve always admired FunDza for taking mobiles for literacy and mobiles for reading concepts and building it up and innovating in that space, whilst still complimenting it with the print side. I respected that. It is an honour to be a part of FunDza. It is also a chance for me to bring my learning to FunDza almost as an active participant but also as an observer.”
That is why Steve is the perfect fit for FunDza. He’s particularly excited about FunDza getting young people to write stories – check out the Fanz section on our mobi site.
“Good writing is hard. And our readers expect good quality writing. So there’s a lot of work that goes into taking a piece of writing that’s been submitted and which shows potential to polish it up and to nurture these young writers, developing skills.”