If I remember correctly it was around September 2009 when I had this idea about having public transport information available on mobile phones. This is how the story unfolded..
I had promised my wife and our 3 boys (there were still 3 of them at the time) that I would take them to a very popular mall in Cape Town for the day. That particular day, as fate (lets call it fate for now) would have it, I had car problems and didn’t really want to go anymore but I had made a promise to my family was forced to follow through or I would never have heard the end of it. So I checked the airtime balance on my mobile phone and luckily I had enough credit to contact the call center to find out what time there would be a bus. I got the info and we made our way to the bus stop.
The time came and went by and the bus did not turn up. So, there I was thinking: “Did I get the correct information?”, “Is the bus delayed?” “Maybe the bus was cancelled…”. We stood at the bus stop and didn’t know what to think. I didn’t have enough credit on my mobile to make another call to find out whether the bus was still on it’s way or not. While standing there a thought crossed my mind: “What if I could access this information from my mobile phone?”. That is where it all started for LetzGo! With a simple thought of how I could address a problem that many other people were facing on a daily basis. It took endless hours of research of what was already out there and many more hours lost in thought about how this could work.
Finally, after quite a few years, there was good news for me! In 2012, RLabs ran an incubation program for social entrepreneurs and LetzGo! was accepted into the program. Read more here…
I knew that the idea I had would work but I had no idea how hard it would be to turn this simple idea into a business. I learnt that if you have a dream you need to keep working at it until you have achieved it. I know that there is still a lot of work ahead of me to make LetzGo! a success but I’m gonna see this one through to the end.
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confuscious
I find myself sitting in my favorite seat looking out over the balcony and see people going into the mall to handle their business. I see them but my attention is not focused on them, I’m thinking about the exciting 3 days that just passed. This week RLabs embarked another exciting initiative, the world’s first Mobile Counseling training.
Participants representing 5 NGO's
Day 1 of the training workshop kicked off with Michael Abrahams doing the introduction and welcoming the 5 NGO’s after which Brent Williams kicked off the first session with his presentation on “Mobile Phones for social good”. Brent laid a sound foundation for the rest of the workshop giving the participants some background on Social Media and showing them the possibilities of reaching the masses using mobile chat applications.
Before the tea break Craig Ross had a slot informing the participants about the chat system (http://chat.rlabs.org) they will be working on and also getting them registered as counselors. Once all participants were registered on the system the first session was complete and it was time for a tea break.
After the break Craig continued with his presentation on “The Art of Mobile Counseling”. Craig spoke of his experience of being a mobile counselor and highlighted the differences between mobile counseling and face to face counseling. Most of the participants were trained counselors at the organizations they worked at. Craig highlighted 2 significant points: 1) Mobile chat environment has its own culture and language; 2) Brief and to the point less is best, the counselor have to use as little text to get the maximum message. After Craig’s slot the participants didn’t know whether they should be excited or scared.
Confessions of a Mobile Counselor
I was next up with my slot on “Confessions of a Mobile Counselor”, this was more of an interactive session where I asked the participants what tools they thought a mobile counselor should have in their toolkit. In this session I also shared out of my experience as a mobile counselor and also gave them real examples of mobile counseling sessions and how I handled those giving them some idea as to what they would be getting themselves into. After this session the participants were a bit more relaxed and felt like mobile counseling was something they could probably do. They were then given some homework and soon after we had a lunch break.
counselors vs. users roleplay using g-talk
After lunch Michael Abrahams facilitated the “role play” using google talk. The group was divided in two, one group being the counselors and the other group drug addicts seeking help and then changed roles halfway through the session. This gave the participants a chance to put into practice what they had learned in the previous session. The day then ended on this high note and the participants were left with a lot to ponder…