Social and Community Informatics: Social Theories of Networks

Athlone is situated on the Cape Flats of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa, which is plagued with violence, drugs and gansterism. The society is described by Parker (2008) as a community in tension. The Reconstructed Living Lab (RLabs) project includes a community based non-governmental organisation Impact Direct Ministries (IDM). IDM opted to use technology to offer additional support and advice to people affected by substance abuse; HIV, and general social problems. Its services are available to all members of the community.

The Community in Tension Project fits into the emerging Community Informatics field for the following reasons:
• It is using wireless and community based technology from a local centre; This decreases installation and running costs
• It is there for a socially excluded group, who have no resources of their own
• The Mxit language used is cheaper to use than other texting formats
• The group manage the project – questions come in and are answered by the peers.
RLabs projects strengths and weaknesses are as demonstrated by the Schuurman analysis .The partnership model for the RLabs is the community, academia, industry and government. (See Figure 5). The difference of this project to other living labs is that the community; Athlone; leads the project and are not reliant on funds from other partners: (although funds have to be raised in other ways). The choice of technology was by the community, as was the choice of partners. The future social transformation of a community in tension is led by the community.

You can read more about RLabs (previously known as Athlone Living Lab) and Social and Community Informatics in a technical report here.

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