South African social network receives international recognition

Obami, a locally developed social networking site and learning management system for schools, was one of 10 companies from around the world selected to attend the 2011 Netexplorateur Forum which took place this month. The company presented its business concept to an audience of 1 600 politicians and businessmen at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Obami was initially launched as a generic social networking site, but with the growth of Facebook, Obami founder Barbara Mallinson chose to change its focus to serve the education sector.

“We are so proud of being selected as a top 10 Netexplorateur 2011 company. We are extremely excited about what the future holds for Obami following these accolades and new partnerships, and expect the Obami social network to make a huge impact on the quality and effectiveness of education across the globe,” says Mallinson.

The project was incubated by ISLabs which was launched to create an ideas incubator to identify projects that need to be supported either with money or resources to improve the state of the South African internet.

“We are very pleased to hear about Obami’s achievement. This award vindicates our support of entrepreneurs like Ms Mallinson who are improving the value of the internet to South Africans,” says ISLabs Co-founder, Greg de Chasteauneuf.

Obami is now a social networking site that has been developed specifically for schools, to facilitate communication and collaboration amongst school communities and sub-communities, including teachers, pupils and parents, while also providing an extensive learning management system to satisfy the content distribution, pedagogical and assessment needs of learners and educators.

The system is a walled garden, which means that only registered schools are able to join the community, ensuring a safe environment for all members. It is provided free to schools, enabled by relevant and approved advertising, as well as the sharing of sponsored educational content with the Obami audience.

“Obami currently has 35 registered schools in South Africa, with more schools from the UK, France and Greece scheduled to come online in the near future,” says Mallinson. “With the rapid proliferation and widespread adoption of technology and social networking services, especially amongst the youth, integrating these types of services into education curriculum and teaching techniques will continue to gain traction and popularity, as children can easily relate to this online environment.”

Due to the relevance and impact that Obami is having on the delivery and effectiveness of education, the Obami social network was identified as one of the latest and most promising projects in the world, by an international network of more than 200 spotters located across the globe.

“Netexplorateur is a unique set-up for detecting, analysing and putting into perspective future mainstream practices in digital society,” explains Mallinson. “Its mission is to give managers from France’s largest businesses and public authorities the keys to grasp, understand and adapt to the ongoing, global digital revolution, so we are very excited to be getting global exposure at this level.”

Initially material from several hundred projects, companies and technologies is analysed in great depth by the Netexplorateur selection committee. The companies considered for the prize include those making new use of the web for ground-breaking technologies, including research labs, associations, NGOs and businesses. Every aspect of the ongoing digital revolution is covered, with the view to finding those technologies that are helping to transform markets.

“Although Obami didn’t win overall, we are extremely honoured to have been a Top 10 Award Winner. To be recognised for our achievements and have the opportunity to present to such a respected audience is fantastic in itself. We hope that this will springboard Obami into other global markets,” Mallinson added.



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