MXit encourages youngsters to vote

The Institute for Democracy in Africa and the Open Democracy Advice Centre have launched an initiative with cellphone instant messaging service MXit to encourage young South Africans to vote.

The initiative, called smrtCitizen, has been designed to help young SA adults understand why they should vote, what their rights are, and what they can do to change and shape their future.

SmrtCitizen is part of a larger educational initiative on MXit called Bsmrt, which has more than 150 000 users across SA and the rest of Africa.

“SmrtCitizen talks to our youth in a language that they understand,” says Katherine van Wyk, programme director at Ever1Mobile, the company responsible for developing the platform. “Our research shows that young people are willing and able to contribute to a better future.”

The mobile platform addresses a lack of age-relevant information that is available to youth by answering questions such as “What makes me a citizen?” and “Where do my rights come from?”.

Other sections allow users to report incidences of injustice and to join campaigns and community action or debate groups. There is a section on current news issues, including xenophobia and government’s interest in passing the Secrecy Bill.

A critical element to smrtCitizen is encouraging a balance between young adults knowing their rights and taking responsibility for them. A competition was launched to reward youth with MXit Moola, the platform’s virtual currency, for taking steps to improve their community or region.

Van Wyk says MXit is more accessible to young South Africans than newspapers, television and radio. “It’s the only medium that could allow us to have a two-way conversation with young adults,” says Van Wyk.  — Staff reporter, TechCentral

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