Tech4Africa

Sisters take on technology

2010-08-12 11:22
Barbara Mallinson will speak at the Tech4Africa conference. (Picture provided)

Barbara Mallinson will speak at the Tech4Africa conference. (Picture provided)

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Johannesburg - The Tech4Africa conference is, for the most part, still a “boys and their toys” event, but some strong women have been making waves is the industry.

“Yes, women are few and far between, but there’s lots of support for women and I think in a few years, we’ll see lots more women in this industry,” speaker told News24.

Mallinson, who was born and schooled in Johannesburg and studied at UCT, founded Obami after spending five years working in London.

“Well I was working in London, but I always knew I wanted to start my own company. I wanted to work for myself,” she said.

Obami is a social networking site aimed specifically at schools and facilitates e-learning, communication and collaboration among pupils, teachers and parents. But it didn’t start out that way.

Niche audience

“It started as a generic social networking site and at the time, MySpace was dominating and there was nothing for the school community, so we targeted that niche market,” said Mallinson.

She said that because of the niche audience, she wasn’t expecting massive adoption rates.

“The school market is notoriously difficult to crack, so we didn’t put up big projections, but we feel that a niche market holds greater value than a generic audience.”

Without naming names, she said that other social networking sites didn’t always have users’ privacy at heart and often changed terms and conditions that could be used to mine profiles for information that could be used commercially.

Other sites take the user for granted, and they’re not transparent about their terms and conditions,” she said.

Seedcamp

The advantage with Obami in this sense is that it is a “walled garden” where children can interact with each other and the important adults in their lives. This aspect has not gone unnoticed, as Mallinson has been selected for Seedcamp, a programme designed to jumpstart entrepreneurial ideas.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to selected and I will appreciate other people’s advice and use it where I feel it’s relevant,” she said, indicating she’s no pushover.

Mallinson began Obami with her own money and feels that it’s her “baby”. Obami has 13 schools registered in SA, with 11 being uploaded, and is free to users.

Mallinson will speak at the Tech4Africa conference runs which runs until Friday.

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