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Mindset Network is eTransforming Africa

Dylan Busa

The Human Development Index, originally developed by Amartya Sen and Mahbub ul Haq, places education and health as 2 key measures of human development. The founders of Mindset recognised that in order to nurture much neglected human development in South Africa and in other places on the continent, it was essential to place the focus here. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

And so, in 2002, Mindset Network was launched by Mr Mandela and has since operated as a non-profit organisation creating, sourcing and delivering high quality educational content for use in the formal education and (since 2004) health sectors where such provision can support human development. Wherever possible, access is made free or affordable to the end user.

About Mindset

Most of Mindset’s work is directed at South Africa and in this Mindset focuses on leveraging its skills and position to assist Government deliver better services rather than establishing parallel systems of delivery. In the Schooling programme, for example, it is clear that the Apartheid legacy still bedevils many attempts to improve the quality of education delivered to most children and that there remains the tendency for more affluent learners to attract a disproportionate share of the available resources thereby advantaging them and perpetuating the original income gap. Mindset actively works to assist Government to try and correct this imbalance which, if left unchecked, will result in the gaps in income and educational attainment widening.

As a non-profit organisation, Mindset relies on external funding to sustain many of its operations. To date, funding has been received in cash and in kind from South African and international businesses (including Liberty, Standard Bank, Intelsat and Multichoice) as well as multilateral donors and funding agencies. Increasing, however, Mindset is developing its own revenue streams to ensure financial sustainability and indeed an increase in its productive output. For example, all its video production and delivery capabilities have been spun out into a for-profit company servicing the needs of a range of additional clients.

Mindset Content

The development of high quality, contextually relevant content is naturally a key part of Mindset’s business. In the last 9 years, Mindset has developed over 500 hours of video content for grade 4 to 12 South African learners and teachers and approximately 250 hours of video content for the public and Healthcare Workers on issues around HIV/AIDs and TB. Allied to the video are hundreds of hours and thousands of pages of interactive multimedia and print content respectively. In all cases, Mindset creates content in these multiple formats to be mutually reinforcing and also to ensure that as many people as possible are able to benefit from it irrespective of the technology they have access to.

The key challenges in producing such content tend to be:

  • developing high quality content as cost effectively as possible;
  • ensuring that all content is perfectly accurate and correctly aligned;
  • keeping content up-to-date in the midst of changing school curricula and shifting health policies;
  • finding and investing in building the skills of suitable content developers and producers;
  • understanding and correctly exploiting the educational affordances of each media format;
  • and constantly measuring and evaluating the notion of high quality.

Since 2002, Mindset has developed a set of robust processes to deal with the issues and has shared its learning and skills with many other organisations. Such content production capacity development is an important part of Mindset’s work.

Content Distribution

Mindset uses several digital platforms to distribute its content including satellite broadcast, the Web, distributable media like DVDs and, increasingly, mobile devices. The choice of these digital platforms is based on the need to distribute content as widely and cost effectively as possible. Satellite broadcast, for example, while requiring high upfront costs provides significant economies of scale and exceptional reach, particularly to traditionally technologically under-serviced areas. In addition, television tends to be a familiar and non-threatening technology.

Currently, Mindset broadcasts its schooling content on 2 pay TV networks (one – Dstv – with an Africa wide reach) to over 2.5 million households and approximately 1300 individual schools and resource centres. Mindset Health is broadcast by Mindset as a free-to-air channel to over 490 clinics and hospitals through South Africa. Mindset is currently exploring opportunities to broadcast several additional free-to-air channels through its capacity on the IS17 satellite.

Broadcast television is necessarily restricted to the delivery of video content. The Web, DVDs and many emerging mobile devices provide the ability to distribute other media formats like interactive multimedia and traditional print as well as representing additional access points. Coupled with this is the web and mobile devices ability to also allow one to provide other value-add services to users. For example, Mindset Learn has recently launched a free help desk to Grade 10 – 12 learners accessible through the Learn website, Facebook and MXit.

Free Content

As an educational non-profit organisation, Mindset not only believes in providing free content in the financial sense. Especially in formal education, Mindset sees the need to give users creative freedom to use its content in ways that enhance its educational benefit. Thus, early on Mindset made the decision to release versions of all its content on its website under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike licence. Attribution was selected to ensure that Mindset and, by extension, its funders were appropriately credited for the original work while Share-Alike was selected to ensure the continued freedom of Mindset content.

Significantly, Mindset chose not to apply the non-commercial restriction for 2 reasons. Firstly, it seemed that by applying this restriction, users’ freedom to remix Mindset content with other content would be severely limited due to licence incompatibilities. Secondly, as part of Mindset’s vision was and is human development, it made sense to try and empower those with the ability to value-add Mindset content in ways that Mindset could not and so to create a way to keep such endeavours financially sustainable noting that the attribution requirement would always point users back to the free version thereby nullifying the business model in instances where no perceived value was being added.

Face-to-Face Meetings

In order to increase the extent and quality of impact that Mindset content has, the organisation develops and runs face-to-face workshops with teachers and community health practitioners. In the case of teachers in particular, Mindset actively encourages the use of Mindset content in locally developed resources as part of an overall effort to help teachers create their own high quality teaching and learning resources in the context of an underlying resource based teaching methodology.

These face-to-face workshops also provide Mindset with invaluable opportunities to test the efficacy of the content it has developed. In addition, significant samples of Mindset content are user group tested during the development phase not only to ensure that the content is factually accurate but is also at the correct language level, that the visual cues are well understood, that it meets the educational needs of the intended audience and that it is enjoyable and engaging to watch.

Periodically, Mindset also undertakes large scale programmatic evaluations to measure the identified proximal indicators for impact and ensure that all aspects of the programme are delivering effectively and efficiently.

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One Response to “Mindset Network is eTransforming Africa”

  1. thanks for this forum people!as we debate,i do hope that we will access possibilities and together explore what is possible,so that our children and our children's children can learn better and live better!!!thanks again.


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