Bringing code to Qunu: How Mandela’s legacy is re-booting digital in rural South Africa


Bringing code to Qunu: How Mandela’s legacy is re-booting digital in rural South Africa

On the 18th of July 2015 organizers of the Nelson Mandela Day Project – Africa Rising, founded by Ndaba Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s grandson - brought together a group of digital experts to educate and inspire the community of the remote South African village of Qunu. Create Africa, a cooperative that produces cultural events focused on the intersection between culture and technology, has called together partners to ‘reboot’ the computer lab in the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu, on the day devoted to his life and work, Mandela day. The event had official involvement from Ndaba Mandela, Mandela’s grandson, and participants include Isobar NowLab, the Maker Library Network and Sunshine Cinema.

To honour Mandela Day, which serves to bring together people around the world to fight poverty and promote peace and reconciliation, this collaboration aims to empower the youth of Qunu, fostering equal access to technology and opportunities to innovate; promoting fun exploration of computing; engineering, technology and making; and highlighting individuals’ abilities to make change. 

Isobar hosted three sessions on Saturday 18th of July. The team provided an interactive and fun introduction to digital to spark the imagination of the children. Instead of abstract ones and zeros, Isobar introduced the idea of physical computing using the simple kano and MaKey MaKey platforms. Following the session, the Kano and Makey Makey technology was left as a donation to the Museum and the people of Qunu.  Isobar’s expert creative and technological teams also introduced the kids to Scratch, a fun programming tool developed by MIT. The teams also gave the teachers tutorials to provide the children with continued support after the session.

Isobar will helped support Qunu alongside the Maker Library Network, a British Council Connect ZA project that connects designers and makers around the world, and the people behind Sunshine Cinema, a South African social innovation that converts solar power to social impact with its neatly equipped mobile solar cinema unit.

 Isobar Creative Director, Kerry Friend said;

 “I went to Qunu thinking that our contribution would be very small and I even wondered if we could make a meaningful impact. But after a very emotive discussion with  Mrs Nozuko Yokwana, the chairlady of the Nelson Mandela Museum, she explained how our contribution might seem small to us, but to this rural community its a very large contribution, and that this could be the very spark that would inspire the future leaders of South Africa. So hearing that left a lasting impression on me and I hope we get enough support to go back next year and leave an even bigger legacy in honour of Tata Madiba"

Isobar Technical Director, Ruaan Uys said;

“We are delighted to be part of such an important event for Qunu and the Nelson Mandela Museum. To be able to spark the imagination of the kids, by exposing them to simple physical computing, is a fantastic opportunity to introduce tech at a grass roots level”


Cape Town

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