Siyafunda Community Technology Centre

Students using the Siyafunda computer lab in Palm Ridge Community Knowledge Centre.
Students using the Siyafunda computer lab in Palm Ridge Community Knowledge Centre.

Siyafunda CTC is a community based organisation that focuses on access to technology skills and training in the previously Disadvantaged Township and Rural communities in South Africa. Common issue amongst young people in South Africa growing up in townships and rural communities is low computer literacy and access to the internet. Low income households cannot afford computers and young people who attend school in townships and rural communities do not have access to computer labs. This means most children from a disadvantaged background will make it to a tertiary institution without ever having used a computer. At university level, this is a challenge for students as they have to use a computer for assignments and research. Without computer skills, the young people are at a disadvantage, especially in the job market.

Over the years, internet cafes have opened in many of the communities. People can now use a computer for basic assignments, research and to type CVs.  Ahmed Ismael, known as ‘Smiley’, decided to leave the corporate world after 32 years to explore how networks could be used to benefit people in his community. In 2005, he was involved in the establishment Government ICT Charter through involvement with the BITF – Black IT Forum. After establishing the first Siyafunda centre, Smiley received an investment from Massmart for education and development. The first centre was establishing in 2006 in partnership with SAP, Massmart, Nextgen Training Solutions and the Ekurhuleni Metro Municipality who provided the access to the Internet on their broadband. In November 2015, the Siyafunda Centre celebrated its ninth anniversary.

Syafunda is a Zulu word meaning “we are learning”. The organisation aims to empower, educate and e-connect the youth and people in the community. The concept of social enterprise enables the centres to generate some income to sustain itself by providing affordable training programmes and services.  Siyafunda has a strong focus on ‘Community, Public and Private Partnership’ (CPPP). This means every stakeholder plays their part in investing in the young people. Through the CPPP Model Siyafunda has been able to build +125 community partner relations in South Africa.  Young people can freely access educational content through private partnerships with Cisco Academy, Intel Microsoft, SAP and Junior Achievement for entrepreneurial programmes. This has allowed Siyafunda to build a community knowledge centre (CKC) which gives the young people nnd the general community access to an employment portal. They also take part in the Intel She Will Connect and My Journey programmes, an initiative to empower 3 million girls and women through digital literacy.  Siyafunda Community Centres also participated in the SAP AFRICA CODE WEEK held in October 2015 empowering school kids and youth with coding and programme experiences.

The Siyafunda Centre has developed Master Trainers to evaluate and support existing centres, ensuring community partners are up-skilled, and to map prospective new centres.   Partnerships with National Government, The Department of Telecoms, Department of Science and Technology; Provincial Governments Social Development Departments, and Local Government like the Ekurhuleni Metro and City of Jo’burg , have strengthened the network and this has led to an increase in connections with other NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations).  Siyafunda helps service the Premier of Gauteng Province’s ‘Tshepo 500,000 Job Creation’ campaign by offering training in technology to civil servants to improve skills and efficiency and has received a Quality Assurance certificate for its programmes and community partnerships. Official SETA Accreditation provides credits when establishing community partnerships.

Siyafunda partnership with the big ICT companies, SAP, CISCO, INTEL, HCL AXON, MICROSOFT, EMC, EDGE enables communities to access high-end ICT skills programmes at affordable rates at their door-step.

Partnership with VUT – Vaal University of Technology to roll out the new e-Learning Portal act the community centres

Siyafunda has partnered with the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Social Economy to assist NGOs and access academics. Their partnership with the University of South Africa (UNISA) offers distance learning and pays a subsidy for students to use Siyafunda Centres in their community to access the student portal and submit assignments.


A training programme for cashiers in the Siyafunda centre in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, a largely rural area, led to 10 young people gaining employment with the local supermarket. So far, centres have been established in 20 villages and have empowered 2,000 people. Nationally, Siyafunda has +125 official community partners, 250 trainers and 15 master trainers.

Community Technology Centres has been successful in empowering people from disadvantaged backgrounds to overcome their challenges and use the digital skills learned at the centres to transform their lives. Today these +125 technology centres in South Africa not only offer digital know how but also provides tailor-made solutions for specific communities according to their social challenges. Like, for a community of local street vendors, the technology centres would offer solutions to develop entrepreneurial skills

A flourishing enterprise, Siyafunda aims to expand virtual community knowledge centres and to offer mobile services to reach more people within the next five years.  Smiley was accepted as an Ashoka Fellow and is now working towards measuring the social impact of the initiative and exploring a social enterprise franchise model.

Siyafunda has received numerous international and national awards recognising this unique CPPP Model of success.

Ahmed "Smiley" Ismael

Founder and Director