The Rhodes University Enactus team recently reached the 2021 MTN ICT Challenge's finals. This was a unique competition and collaboration between Enactus and MTN to develop digital services to address socio-economic challenges in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Enactus members who have innovative ideas on developing any digital services, products, or gamification to address socio-economic challenges in the health, education, and agriculture sector were called to enter.
The Rhodes University ICT team, Samkelisiwe Makhanye, Bonokuhle Sokhulu, Zubenathi Ngxovula, and Mnotho Ngonyama, found that even in their different academic courses and years, they still faced similar challenges when it came to finding online resources. "The implementation of online learning saw many students struggling to keep up, find online resources as well as navigate the online education space," said the team leader, Samkelisiwe. The Rhodes University ICT team was inspired by the challenges brought about by online learning to develop a digital service for the Tertiary Education sector. They said they are excited about how this Challenge has continued to help them break their limited understanding of what is possible within the education sector.
Samkelisiwe said she was proud of how her team used the challenges of COVID-19 to develop a sustainable solution. "COVID-19 brought about a lot of challenges for university students, but we are proud to have worked on a solution for at least some of these," she said.
The 2021 MTN ICT Challenge finalists consisted of 15 teams that received a marketing and prototype development fund of R70 000 each. The Rhodes University ICT Team said they were excited to be amongst the finalists. "This way, we ensure that we remain genuinely passionate about this initiative and continue to help not only our fellow students but ourselves as well," added Samkelisiwe.
In working on the unique challenge, the Rhodes University ICT team sought out the input of students, tutors, and lecturers across various departments from various universities and colleges. They also researched multiple platforms that provide online study tools but found that few South African students knew these existed. "This helped us get a holistic view of what students have been going through and improved our understanding of the online environment," said Samkelisiwe.
Rhodes University Enactus Faculty Advisor, Dr Nosiphiwe Ngqwala, said: It has been quite challenging to work on a project during the national lockdown period, and I believe it is never too late to celebrate our students' achievements. I am very proud of the team."