Siyakhula Living Lab

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Information doc: 

Sibukele Gumbo

+27 723713867

Effective member: 
South Africa

It is easy to see why the research being conducted by Rhodes University and the University of Fort Hare in the Siyakhula Living Lab is of great importance to the country and Africa as a whole. It has produced tangible beneficial effects for the impoverished communities of the Mbashe district of the Eastern Cape in South Africa, as well as arousing international interest in the project. It shows in a practical fashion how marginalised rural communities that are very difficult to reach, may in future be joined with the greater South African and African communities to the economic, social and cultural benefit of all.

Description of Concept

The original objective of the project was to develop and field-test the prototype of a simple, cost-effective and robust, integrated e-business/telecommunication platform, to deploy in marginalized and semi- marginalized communities in South Africa, where a large number (42.5%) of the South African population live. The project has evolved to include generic communication (Internet, GSM, etc.) based services to rural areas in South Africa, based on the deployment of  ICTs in schools, which together realise a distributed access network

Core Partners

The Living Lab is embedded in the following regional and international innovation systems:

- Telkom Centres of Excellence (CoE) at the Universities of Fort Hare and Rhodes University

- Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP) of the Department for Science and Technology of South Africa

- Cooperation Framework on Innovation Systems between Finland and South (COFISA), a programme of the South African and Finnish governments


Short-term (1-2 years):

- Build Direct Benefits

- continue to provide computer literacy training to the community

- offer new services to the community that can directly save costs  e.g. lower-cost GSM based services

- develop an innovative low maintenance telecommunications network infrastructure

- engage with industry to multiply benefits to the community and create jobs for them

- introduce semantic based technologies to begin capturing indigenous knowledge in a manner that is easy to access (and sell)

- expand the current network infrastructure to other schools in the district

Medium-Term (3-5 years):

Network the Community, bring the network into community homes – demonstrate benefits and speed up adoption.!improve semantic technologies - Smart software which smoothes ICT adoption according to local norms and language and makes exchange of information online easier esp. for unskilled users.! develop a scalable, standardized model for other similar areas in Africa and in Europe.!

Long-Term (6-9 years):

Network to the Knowledge Society!allow community members to participate in a knowledge economy thus combating the “brain drain” from rural areas.