Learners and the public will soon have easy access to librarians, without having to visit a library, thanks to a new online platform.
Digital start-up MathsGee has teamed up with various libraries to help them become digitised.
MathsGee, an online education support platform, provides real-time support to learners through a question-and-answer platform.
The company’s founder and CEO Edzai Zvobwo says it has started a citizen-led extension of the platform to help libraries better engage the public.
“As a pilot, we independently created sites for Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg, which will help them offer a dedicated ‘Ask a Librarian’ functionality.
“We targeted libraries due to my personal experience of not being able to get answers without physically going to a library to ask a librarian to assist me,” says Zvobwo.
The ‘Ask a Librarian’ function enables users to ask specific libraries questions, via their mobile device. The questions are routed to librarians, who can respond in real time.
“The platform is designed for constructive knowledge sharing. Before someone asks a question, they can see if it has already been asked and if an answer has been provided. This avoids duplication and saves librarians’ time,” he says.
While the pilot sites are still in the testing phase, the platform is zero-rated and free to use, with major costs covered by MathsGee.
“We are using an ad-based model and testing a ‘tip jar or sponsor’ button that will enable users who answer questions to get a ‘tip’. MathsGee will get five percent of the amount sponsored,” says Zvobwo.
He sees this as an opportunity for students who are struggling financially to earn some money.
“This is the new world. It is how open source knowledge sharing is being funded.”
Zvobwo adds that GitHub, Reddit, YouTube and other open platforms have all recently introduced ‘tip jar or sponsor’ functionality to thank creators.
“I would like to commend the departments of health, higher education and training, and basic education for crafting the world’s largest telco-led intervention through the zero-rating of education websites.
“Over 1 000 sites have been zero-rated by various mobile network operators. We want to achieve this and more with libraries,” he says.