Want to consolidate democracy? There's an app for that

21 October 2013

Tinotenda GavazaBackchat: Discuss student issues using alumnus Tinotenda Gavaza's Jammie Junction app.

Consolidating democracy in post-colonial African states can be a long and arduous journey. During his time as a UCT student, Tinotenda Gavaza noticed that the university was not immune to communication challenges between management and "clients".

Enter Jammie Junction, a free mobile app that provides a forum for UCT students to discuss and debate events of the day with their Students' Representative Council (SRC) – all day, every day.

Launched in late September, the app – available for download on most smartphones – is designed to increase the likelihood that any SRC's submissions to university management is actually informed by a mandate from the students it is meant to represent.

"In my day [2006 to 2009], I wasn't quite sure how the SRC processes worked, or how to get my opinion across. You voted, and then what?" asked Gavaza, a UCT computer science graduate and co-founder of TWT Solutions, who developed the Jammie Junction app.

"We're trying to give the SRC brand back to the students through effective communication, because we elect the SRC leaders and they make a lot of decisions for us, but what are those decisions based on? We're trying to let the SRC know exactly what the students are thinking."

After downloading the app or registering for free on the mobi-site (m.jammiejunction.co.za), the floor belongs to the students; there are forums for 'News', 'Complaints', 'Jammie Heat', 'Societies' and others in which the "clientele", as Gavaza describes the students, can discuss any aspect of university life in as much detail as they want.

Jammie Junction logoBackchat: Discuss student issues using alumnus Tinotenda Gavaza's Jammie Junction app.

"Companies must get to know their clients to the fullest extent," says Gavaza, adding that Jammie Junction brings students' opinions to the SRC's – and then Senate's – doorstep.

"It's a forum where students can have intellectual discussions, and it's also a place where companies can advertise."

Gavaza is not only referring to major retailers; university suppliers – such as food court vendors – are encouraged to advertise their products and services on Jammie Junction. Advertising is free for the moment.

"We have to give something back to our alma mater! We had to launch it through UCT, because these are the people that gave us the knowledge we have now."

Jammie Junction is built to last.

"Any SRC can easily use it," Gavaza says. "We want it to be a tool for the students. We can have the Twitters and Facebooks of the world, but there isn't yet one open forum where students can just come and discuss whatever is happening."

Until now, of course.

Gavaza sees no reason that similar platforms can't be launched at other tertiary institutions in future, and is confident that the UCT online forum will take hold and live up to its full potential.

Story by Yusuf Omar.

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