By: Harshi Hettige, Women Deliver
Praekelt Foundation’s Young Africa Live (YAL) is an entrepreneurial endeavor supporting the health and well-being of girls, women, and all youth in a fun and dynamic way.
YAL filled a yawning gap in South Africa’s mobile reach, which neglected to provide consumers with any information about HIV/AIDS - where to get tested, how to practice safe sex, and how to avoid getting it. This information is direly needed, particularly in a country where an estimated 5.6 million people were living with HIV and AIDS in 2009, the highest number of people affected in any nation.
Praekelt Foundation addressed the challenge by building a mobile platform that is “entertainment-oriented, fun, interactive, and provocative.” According to their website, the Foundation’s initiative aims to:
1) Share information & Educate:
Make crucial health and lifestyle information available via the mobile portal and reach more than 30 million South Africans every month.
2) Generate Discussion
3) Promote HIV testing
Through easy-to-use portal information and linkages to VCT (voluntary counseling and testing) centres. If we conservatively say that 20% of the South African population are HIV-positive, that means 20% of the users on this mobile portal will be HIV-positive, but might not know their status and might continue practicing risky behavior and putting themselves and their loved ones at risk of infection. It is therefore crucial that we use this platform to, through interactive discussion, create enough peer pressure that young people will test themselves for HIV.
YAL does more than broadcast plain facts or outline do’s and don’ts. Instead, it encourages discussion by providing a space for young South Africans to open up about the topics they may experience on any given day: love, sex, relationships, gender and cultural issues, as well as HIV/AIDS. As online resources are increasingly defining today’s youth experiences, YAL is designed to be a youth-friendly, welcoming, interactive online community.
Visitors have a reason to check back frequently: Every day the site is updated with news and celebrity stories, which users can ‘like' or leave comments on. Guest bloggers write about their experiences surrounding love, sex, dating, cultural dilemmas, gender stereotypes and more. Users can also participate in engaging dialogue through live chats with doctors, relationship experts, and each other.
The constant features include must-know facts around HIV/AIDS, helpline numbers, and contact details for easily-accessible referral organizations that can support YAL-users in times of need.
The portal was launched on December 1 (World Aids Day), 2009. It is supported and hosted by Vodafone Live. Since the launch, YAL has garnered a lot of attention on the web. Between December 1, 2009 and May 31, 2011, they’ve attracted over 36,000,000 page views, over 1,000,000 comments, and over 357,000 unique visitors.
The portal is an opportunity to embrace, inform, and support youth. Praekelt Foundation and Vodafone Live invites contributions from and partnerships with NGOs with related missions or fun content that could further broaden the scope of Young Africa Live.
To learn more, click here.
Flickr photograph via kk+.