IS Labs has identified Obami as its next incubation initiative as part of its goal to drive the development of more local Internet businesses and technologies.
Obami is a social networking site for southern African schools that helps parents, teachers and pupils keep up to date with everything that is happening at their school from a single place.
Jam-packed with features such as instant chat, photo-uploads, blogs, calendars, budget planners, community portals, and over 90 000 widgets (mini programmes that performs a useful function), it offers users rich functionality specifically designed around school life.
Strict access control, privacy settings and moderation measures creates a safe online community where users can collaborate without fear of cyber predators.
"We've received many interesting ideas for new Internet businesses and technologies in the last few months. After some tough deliberation, we decided on Obami because it had the best mix of a great idea and good team that's committed to seeing it through," says Jeff Fletcher, product development manager for Internet Solutions and a founder of IS Labs. ³Obami is a really great new service that will help reduce South Africa¹s reliance on expensive international bandwidth."
The name Obami is derived from the Zulu words meaning "my" or "mine".
Giving users access to more information and more relevant information, time-starved parents can become more involved in their children¹s school lives. Schools can close the teacher-parent gap more effectively, while teachers can share knowledge with colleagues from different schools. Pupils can interact with their teachers and parents while staying in touch with friends.
To join, schools need to register with Obami. An authorisation code is generated and then e-mailed out to pupils, inviting them to join the network at the discretion of the school administrator. Access and use of the service is free with schools only paying for SMS bundles if they want to contact parents via text messages.
"We wanted to bring school life online and make it more fun. So much of what kids do today is already digital. By bringing school life onto the Internet in a safe way, we believe it will improve their learning experiences. In time, we'd like Obami to become the number one point of access for school-related communication and up to date information within, and between, all South African schools," says Barbara Mallinson, founder of Obami.com
While Internet connectivity in South African schools is still comparatively low, it is growing. As greater Internet connectivity enables Obami to provide more children with access to information, a growing Obami user base will, in turn, fuel demand for more Internet connectivity in schools.
IS Labs is providing Obami with technical resources in the form of a dedicated server to ensure enough capacity for large volumes of web traffic. IS Labs will also provide Obami with ongoing business support, providing it with new personal connections uncovered through its own network, and mentorship through sharing of new ideas.
Obami is currently running a pilot for one class at St Mary¹s School for Girls, Waverley. Other schools that have shown an interest in rolling it out from the start of 2009 are St Stithians College and Kingsmead College with schools in disadvantaged areas targeted next.
Obami has also secured exclusive rights as the only school-orientated social networking site permitted to use the Independent Schools Association of South Africa's marketing channels in reaching their 700 member schools.
The service officially goes live this month and, by mid-2009, Obami aims to have between 50 and 100 schools on its books.