Saturday, 24 November 2007

Africa in Extropia

More often than not my time in Second Life is somewhat squeezed as a result of the various activities I need to cram into it: rambling around the islands and blogging them (that's the real biggy), building and scripting stuff (if only for my own amusement) and chatting with friends. So it is not often that I make the effort to tootle along to one of the many meetings and presentations that occur on a dizzyingly frequent basis in SL. That - plus I can be something of an anti-social git.

Now if you've read this blog before and have actually made your way to somewhere near the bottom of the page, you may have noticed that I am a member of Virtual Worlds Connect. This is a social network, built on the Ning platform, for anyone with an interest in virtual worlds. It is completely agnostic about which worlds, and there is no need to be a member of any of them. As with other such networks, you can join up with old friends and meet new ones (albeit rather asynchronously). One such new chum of mine,and fellow SL blogger, is Sophrosyne Stenvaag. She sent me a notification (via VW Connect) of a presentation today by my SL friend, Alanagh Recreant, of the South African non-profit organisation, Uthango Social Investments. Alanagh was going to talk about the work of Uthango and its Virtual Africa projects in Second Life. How could I not go?

The meeting was held at Extropia Core - about which I will write more on another occasion - and was attended by around 16 people. Sophrosyne hosts such a meeting every Saturday at 1:00PM SLT, and for those unlucky enough to be around, the guest in 2 weeks might well be... ummm... me. Anyhoo...

Alanagh gave a thorough walkthru of the work undertaken by Uthango and the use of Second Life as a tool to assist them. Second Life can fulfil a variety of roles with respect to Virtual Africa. At its most basic, perhaps, it can put technology and other skills providers, regardless of their geographic location, in direct contact with Uthango. It can also act as a vehicle for raising awareness, not only of the challenges facing Africa, but also of the resources, knowledge and skills that Africa has to offer. As an immersive social network it fits very well with the African culture(s), where such networks are a strong component of everyday life. Hopefully, Uthango will also be able to broker African communities learning new skills and learning from each other.

Here's a couple of photos I took of the meeting:

Now you might be thinking: "Hang on, Al... Africa is a big place... this feels like an over-simplification." If you are, then you share my concerns. At the end of the day, Uthango's remit is South Africa, not the entire continent. However, I am not aware (unless you tell me otherwise) of any other direct African engagement in Second Life yet, and so I cannot really object to this apparent inclusiveness that spans all of Africa. I hope (and expect) that other African participants will emerge in Second Life, but until then Uthango is the torch-bearer for the entire continent. It was a good presentation, followed by a lively Q&A.

On a final note - Soph, any chance of some seating next time? My old virtual legs were seizing up by the end! And finally, just for completeness, here's a link to the Extropia blog.

1 comment:

Alanagh said...

Thank you Aleister... It was so nice to have you at the talk. From Uthango's side, we really appreciate your well-grounded comments and the realism of your input!

And yes, we wish (together with you) that more and more African-based companies will discover VWs - and if they already have (maybe we just don't know it yet!) we hope we will gravitate towards each other. It is such a joy to be part of this immersive experience and journey into the future of technology, globally.