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CATEGORIA: Qualità della vita (Vedi tutti)
TAGLINE: Yoza is the new space for short cellphone stories aka m-novels
KEYWORDS: eLearning, Mobile
WHERE: South Africa
There is a growing awareness around the impact that a lack of books has on literacy levels in South Africa. Books are scarce and prohibitively expensive for most South Africans. Stats show that 51% of households in South Africa do not own a single leisure book, while an elite 6% of households own 40 books or more. Only 7% of schools have functioning libraries. What South Africa’s teens do have access to are cellphones, with stats indicating that 90% of urban youth have their own cellphone.
In 2009, Steve Vosloo, founder of Yoza, launched the m4Lit (mobile phones for literacy) project to capitalize on South Africa's "book-poor, mobile phone-rich" dynamic and see if teenagers in South Africa would read stories on their cell phones. m4Lit published a story called Kontax in September last year and added another Kontax story in May 2010, both published in English and isiXhosa. To date, the two stories have been read over 34,000 times, over 4,000 entries have been received in the writing competitions, and over 4,000 comments have been left by readers on individual chapters.
Encouraged by the high uptake of the stories and by these reader requests, the Shuttleworth Foundation decided to launch Yoza, to get young people reading and writing, regardless the medium. Yoza is the new space for short cellphone stories aka m-novels. They are hip, interactive and free. Read them, leave comments on the chapters and enter the writing competitions to win airtime. Each main story is a series: chapters are published daily. Think soapies on your phone.
Yoza is a funky youth-zone with engaging stories that include more Kontax episodes as well as stories from other genres, e.g. soccer, issues and teen romance. Yoza also has a Classics section for public domain content being studied by learners in South Africa, e.g. Romeo and Juliet. All stories from www.kontax.mobi have been moved to Yoza.
Yoza, a library of mobile novels or "m-novels" that harnesses cellphone technology and popularity to promote reading and writing among South African youngsters, is being incubated by the Shuttleworth Foundation while it looks out for sponsors or partners.
Yoza offers young people a growing library of free, hip, interactive novels, encouraging them not only to read but also to participate in commenting on and reviewing them, and to submit their own stories – with the aim of turning reading into a social, sharing experience.
The Yoza Project set out to explore the viability of using mobile phones to support reading and writing by youth in South Africa (SA). If mobile phones proved to be a legitimate alternative and complement to printed literature then their potential for increasing youth literacy practices of reading and writing in SA, and indeed the developing world, would be significant. Most developing countries are book-poor and mobile phone-rich, after all.
In the pilot phase of the project a mobile novel (m-novel) was written and published in September 2009 on a mobisite and on MXit. The story, called Kontax, was published in English and in isiXhosa. Readers were invited to interact with it as it unfolded – teens could discuss the evolving plot, vote in polls, leave comments, and finally submit a written piece as part of a competition for story sequel ideas. In this way the project aimed to contribute to the understanding of youth mobile literacies. A few months later, a second Kontax m-novel was published.
The uptake was tremendous. In just seven months the two stories were read over 34,000 times on mobile phones. To put this in context, a book is considered a best seller in South Africa if 3,000 copies are sold. Over 4,000 entries were received in the writing competitions and over 4,000 comments were left by readers on individual chapters. Many of the readers asked for more stories and indifferent genres.
Yoza stories aim to captivate teens and inspire them to enjoy well-written stories by good authors. The m-novels are written in conventional language, with txtspeak only used when a character is writing or reading SMSes or instant message chats. Also included is prescribed school reading that is in the public domain, for example, Macbeth.
There is no charge for the actual stories, but users do pay their mobile network operator for mobile data traffic. Images have been kept to a minimum to keep the mobile data charges low – these data charges on local cellphones range from 5c to 9c per chapter, making Yoza m-novels a very affordable option for great reading material for teens.
Steve Vosloo, founder of Yoza and fellow for 21st century learning at the Shuttleworth Foundation, says: "For the foreseeable future the cell phone, not the Kindle or iPad, is the eReader of Africa. Yoza aims to capitalize on that to get Africa’s teens reading and writing."
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