opencafe


Tutu & PhindiI am sure Desmond Tutu needs no introduction – this post is about the girl standing next to him. And yes I know her. Personally.

The story starts back in early 2004 – I think – when Steve stumbled upon the OpenCafe just a few days after he arrived from Australia.

Steve came to South Africa to help out at the local Australian Football League. His plan was to set up a website for
the organization so that everyone in SA and Australia can follow the work Steve and his team was busy with. I never heard of the game of footy before – and I had no idea that I was soon to get to know footy players
and umpires that have been playing footy for quite a while here in South Africa.


So what is Footy?Footy actionAustralian Football, formally officially known as Australian Rules Football, is a fast paced and physically demanding game, with many skills transferable from other sports such as Soccer, Rugby and Basketball. Commonly, a player will need many components of fitness including strength, speed, endurance, agility and durability.There are some elements of the game that especially draws spectators from all
over the world. These are the spectacular goals from seemingly impossible situations, the precision with which players pass to team mates over long distances, fierce bumping and tackling, the long runs of an individual player when he decides to ‘do it himself’, and probably the most loved, the high mark (catch), when a player propels himself into the air and uses his opponent as a step ladder to catch the ball.(Click to read more…)


Steve workingSteve has become a regular at the cafe and we spent long hours gathering all info, text, photos and set up the site. He also did a lot of the admin – typed documents – sent e-mails and did all other admin that was necessary to manage things.However since the work was getting quite overwhelming to handle, and he couldn’t afford spending days and nights typing – he was thinking of finding someone that could help with taking care of the website and all other admin work while he is on the road managing workshops and footy clinics.One obvious candidate for the job was Phindi (then she was 17) – one of the young umpires from Ramatlabama who got involved with Australian Football in 2002 after it was introduced to her community by AFL development officer Dale Alsford, and she was one of the elected team to represent South Africa in Australia at the 2002 International Cup. She says – “It was a great experience although we lost because it was our first time.

One day Steve told me that he was thinking of arranging a trip for Phindi – to stay over for a few days in Potchefstroom. I offered that Phindi could stay with us for a few days – I could introduce her to the OpenCafe to make her stay more interesting. That was the first time I met her – she was excited to find out about the cafe and was quite interested in learning computer skills. She has a great personality, real easy-going, great sense of humour and is really open to learn new things, so she enjoyed her stay with us and we all had fun chatting to her about all sorts of things. A few days later Phindi went back home.
Later I heard that she completed a computer course and also that she
was to permenantly move to Potch from Ramatlabama.Phindi SFD

Once here she started working part-time for AFL South Africa and we designed a program for her for the afternoons which inlcuded learning computer skills and learning how to maintain the new footy site. Phindi kept to her program and learnt as many skills as she could about graphic & web design and website maintenance. In exchange for the skills she was always ready to help out – especially when we needed help with the students and our events. She became one of those very few
people that made the most of the facilities of the cafe and kept on with the programs and the training – no matter how hard it got sometimes with being alone in a new town with no close friends and family to support her.

These days Phindi is working full time for AFL as administrative assistant and she is also head of umpiring. She is managing the footy website, writes many of the stories for the site, takes care of all documentation, e-mails, and everything else that has something to do with the organization’s computers. She has travelled all around South Africa and – she has also been to Australia to study umpiring and is busy organizing a nationwide network for umpires in South Africa – and as you see she gets to meet & work with great people along the way.


Phindi – happy happy 21st!!! Many thanks for becoming one of the Linux chix:) You are not only an qualified umpire but also an OpenCafe graduate – and I hope that in the next 3 years you will achive many more of your dreams and get to meet and work with many more people like the Archbishop!

OpenCafe historyThis weekend we got together with a few “old OpenCafe people”. It was great to see Netanya again – we also got a surprise visit from Tobias and Sosh.

Netanya was our first ArtMarket artist and Tobias came to visit us on our first Linux fest back in the days in 2004. They have been working with us and have kept in touch no matter where they were in the country (guys thanks SO MUCH for all the support!).

The OpenCafe project started somewere in 2000 when we registered the potchnet.co.za domain. We planned to create a support desk for computer and Internet users here in Potchefstroom. We just arrived then – we had no clue what the people are like – we had no experience in running a telecenter or icafe or any other project of this kind.

Around 2001 we set up our first open source thin client “mini-cafe” and started our first trials – with artists, members of ngos and local sport clubs. We started teaching basic computer skills to the local Bambanani youth project, taught web site design skills to Netanya, set up a gazebo on local fleamarkets and even the Aardklop festival – a lot of different projects – we tested them one after the other to see how it all works on a day-to-day basis.

In 2003 we submitted a proposal to the Shuttleworth Foundation for the setup of an open source thin-client Internet cafe and in 2004 our application was approved and we received seed capital from the foundation for the setup of our cafe. We bought all the computers, workstations, and all other equipment and setup our cafe complete with 15 workstations all running Mandrake Linux. That was amazing – once everything was all done – we organized a launch and invited a lot of people from the local schools, universities and local municipality to get to know the cafe.

We were not really sure where we are heading with this project – we were sure of some of the concepts – open source, Internet, community center, training, open source style projects, cross cultural projects, open content, creative commons, open communitites – these are the concepts we were focusing on. In other words – our plans with the OpenCafe is much more than just an open source Icafe – it must be able to do more with all the available software, projects, training materials, online communities – than just being an Internet cafe selling Internet use and doing some printing.

We have done many such projects – we have worked with artists and published our first book under a Creative Commons license a few months after our launch, we have set up free art sites for artists and taught them how to manage their sites and how to use online tools like blogs, Lulu.com etc. We have also taken part in open source development projects and Linux training projects.

Looking back at all the projects we have started, all the people we met – we definitely learned a lot.

The first thing we learned is that for most people concepts like open source or open content is very unclear unless there are practical and tangible examples in front of them that demonstrates the use of a specific open source application or a Creative Commons based training programme. This is what we have to focus on a bit more intensively in the next years to come if we want to get closer to the type of community center we had in mind back in 2001.

The second thing we learned is that – sadly – even though the name is “Open”Cafe – we do have to close it sometimes and relax – otherwise we end up with real messy projects.

Visit OpenCafe history photoset on Flickr to see what the OpenCafe has been up to so far and if you have any ideas on great open source/open content projects for our cafe – please let us know by leaving a comment on this blog!

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We learnt something from the peopleWe had our first barcamp last Saturday.

For the first time I felt – we are getting closer to what the OpenCafe is supposed to be – a place for creativity and collaboration – sharing ideas, skills and cultures – a kind of informal university.

As I was looking at all the people of different ages – speaking different languages – listening to the stories, poems and percussion – and watching our very few but really dedicated geeks disappearing into their thoughts in front of the screen – I thought : “I wish I had grown up in the OpenCafe. But then again – the cafe is the way it is – because we all travelled around and in the same time “we also learnt something from the people”.

The OpenCafe is an example of how dreams come true -…. on a continuous basis:-)
And the more dreams come true – the more new dreams appear out of the blue.

The OpenCafe was not planned. It appeared out of the blue. It was also inevitable as we carried on searching for solutions for problems we had been experiencing throughout our lives.

Even though this one year was spent with a lot of experimentation – and for a long time we were confused about the aims of the cafe – after one year we can say that things are more clear and now we can start doing the “real work”.