The Naledi3d Factory
Endorsement Letter for 2004 USA Tech Museum Awards
(A global call for nominations of innovators using technology to benefit humanity)


from Dr Fay Chung, previous Minister of Education, Zimbabwe

P.O. Box A1368, Avondale
Harare, Zimbabwe

28th April 2004

The Tech Museum Awards
The Tech Museum of Innovation,
201 South Market Street, San Jose, CA 95113  


To whom it may concern
I am delighted to support the nomination of Dave Lockwood and his team at the Naledi3d Factory in the education category of the Tech Awards. They would be a thoroughly deserving recipient for this Award!

 

Background
I have spent most of my professional career as an education specialist including that of Chief Educational Planner, Ministry of Education, Zimbabwe; Head of the Curriculum Development Unit, Ministry of Education, Zimbabwe; Deputy Secretary in charge of School Administration, Ministry of Education, Zimbabwe; Minister of Education and Culture of Zimbabwe; Chief of the UNICEF Education Section, New York; and Special Adviser on Education to the Organization of African Unity. I was the founding Director of the International Institute of Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA), based in Addis Ababa and which I also headed for five years until December 2003 when I retired. During this time we developed and expanded programmes and activities in the areas of teacher education, distance learning, cost-effective utilization of ICT's for education, development of HIV/AIDS materials for education, curriculum development and education for nomadic pastoralists.

 

Relationship with Dave Lockwood and the Naledi3d Factory
I was first introduced to Dave and his team at the Naledi3d Factory through UNESCO’s Nakaseke VR Rural Hygiene project in 2001. Impressed by the potential for what Virtual Reality could achieve in education (and especially in developing parts of the world); I convened a weeklong VR workshop in Pretoria, South Africa, in March 2002 with educational specialists from Uganda, Ethiopia and Nigeria. This, in turn, led to IICBA sponsoring the Naledi3d Factory to create a visually interactive HIV/AIDS learning tool to be used by Ethiopian educators. I expect this model, which will be rolled out soon, to significantly improve the way Ethiopian educators understand the disease, as well as in turn, improve how they educate their learners about this terrible disease.

 

The Role of Virtual Reality
Coming from an education background I recognise the huge potential that VR holds for education. It addresses three primary barriers in African education, i.e. literacy, language and suitable and relevant local content.

This is why I believe Naledi3d Factory’s new, innovative approach (applying what is essentially a first-world technology) to education - and building interactive VR environments -are improving the way Africans learn. By bridging the literacy barrier through the use of 3D interactive models Naledi3d Factory overcomes the inherent limitations of text. As Dave keeps saying, “a picture paints a thousand words”. At the same time, language differences become much less important as text is replaced by interactive, 3D images.

Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, Naledi3d Factory works closely with local stakeholders to develop the content that goes into its interactive simulations. This ensures that the content is always relevant and much more appropriate to the communities and cultures where it will be used.

 

David Lockwood – Some Thoughts
It is well-known that there are few greater challenges than taking a new technology to a new market. It is however even more challenging when that new market is the disadvantaged communities of Africa. Naledi3d Factory’s Founder, Dave Lockwood, has, however, displayed enormous drive and commitment in surmounting this challenge. He felt so strongly about the potential for VR in African education that in 2000, he opted for retrenchment from his former employer, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Pretoria, rather than abandon his vision.

Pockets of strong support not withstanding, he is still at that pioneering stage but I feel confident that his passion will be rewarded in the years to come as VR enters the mainstream of African (and even global) education. David Lockwood, when prompted, would describe himself (and his team at the Naledi3d Factory) as social entrepreneurs that want to make a difference to their continent. I believe they have the “right stuff” to make this happen.

 

Conclusion
Honouring Dave and the Naledi3d Factory with a Tech Award will help this inspired and determined team to further their efforts in providing exciting and relevant educational content to the youth (and adults) of Africa. It will also go a long way in encouraging other champions to step forward and support this worthy cause.

 

Yours faithfully

Dr F K Chung