Posted on October 27, 2010 · Posted in FullMarks

Today the FullMarks website achieved a significant milestone. The numbers may appear modest in the context of huge sites like Facebook and Flickr but in the South African context I think they are significant. Within a 12 hour period we passed both 500 users and 5000 items on FullMarks and I’m excluding demo users and content in that count so it represents real usage.

In South Africa approximately 12% of people have internet access and we are targeting educators (a pool of about 400 000 people in total). The total pool means that there is massive potential for FullMarks if we can tap into a the 40 000 that currently have internet access. There are many initiatives to give more educators access so this number should grow relatively rapidly, especially with the costs of bandwidth coming down and the low price of entry-level laptops and netbooks. Content consumption isn’t really the interesting part and I think that many will look and use but even if only 1% can be convinced to contribute back the site will do well. 400 active contributors would be significant.

We don’t know at what point the community will really take off and content production will not require any further work on our part. We are still running workshops and training new people on how the site works. However, we do not run workshops every day and we do get new users every day. We are still supporting some content uploading so content is not entirely from the community yet.

Here is an animation made from our Google Analytics for the site that shows where in South Africa traffic is coming from:

Animated map of daily South African traffic to FullMarks

The important thing to remember is that we have only run workshops in Cape Town and Durban. If you are familiar with South African geography you’ll see that we’re getting traffic from places as far away as Upington, Kimberley, East London etc. If you’re not familiar with South Africa all you need to know is that everything that isn’t along the coastline couldn’t possibly be from Cape Town or Durban ;) Although many coastal hits aren’t Durban or Cape Town :)

I think that this is the first indication of some viral spread. The key for us now is to create an environment where this distributed group feel that participation is worthwhile and that they spread the word.

About the Author

Mark Horner is the CEO of Siyavula Education, a social enterprise working in the school sector in South Africa. While working as the Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow for Open and Collaborative Resources, Mark was able to transform the Free High School Science Texts (FHSST) project, which he co-founded, into Siyavula Education. In this process, openly-licensed, collaboratively authored textbooks have been printed and distributed nationally in South Africa. Working at the intersection of community, openness and technology; Mark intends to leverage this success to make Siyavula an innovative, technology provider in education that works effectively as part of the education community to ensure better learning opportunities for all. A recent notable event being the delivery of Siyavula's textbooks over Mxit, the most popular mobile chat solution in South Africa. Mark has a PhD in physics from the University of Cape Town and conducted his research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California on the results from the STAR experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. His work is carried out in the belief that the liberation of information and support of education in South Africa will lead to a peaceful and prosperous future for all South Africans.