UN Live Portal Launches in South Africa, Connecting Youths to Global Conversations
The Museum for the United Nations has launched its first UN Live Global We portal on the east side of Johannesburg, Lorentzville, Victoria Yards. Through an immersive installation called portals, young people in Gauteng can connect with peers from other parts of the world in a transformative conversational experience.
While it has become commonplace for the youth to connect with their peers on social media, different video conferencing platforms and traditional physical spaces to discuss critical global issues- the UN Live portal is taking this culture to the next level.
Far from conference rooms only accessible to those in geographic proximity, a face-to-face Zoom chat with a limited-sized screen-portal visitors can get a full-body view of the person they are talking to and travel somewhere they might never visit. The portal can whisk you to a refugee camp in Syria or a conversation with Educational Activist Malala Yousafzai in Doha- for instance.
As you enter the new dimly lit tent-like installation called a portal, neatly tucked into an office, complete with WIFI-connected audio-visual technology and a large screen, you are immediately face-to-face with someone from a different part of the world in a similar portal. The interior is carpeted and furnished with two chairs, a table and a couple of lights on the side.
Visiting the portal is an excited Thando Mooketsi, who described the experience of engaging with other young people from Rwanda as incomparable. “It’s not like the videoconferencing platforms I am used to. The portal creates a captivating feeling and personal connection. You feel like you are in the same room with people in countries you have never dreamed of traveling to”.
In addition to hanging out with new people, the portals are safe spaces for artistic collaborations, having conversations with innovative minds about social issues, sitting down to a drink with people halfway across the world, and snapping a few selfies while at it. These portals offer a unique opportunity for young people to engage in global conversations and exchange ideas with people from different parts of the world- using community infrastructure and connective technology.
In November 2022, the portal officially launched, initiating its first sessions at the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) – allowing young people from the city to converse with their peers, leaders,activists and experts from other parts of the world on climate change.
“Before my first appearance in the portal, I was nervous. I did not know what I was going to say. I felt like I had to do a lot of research on climate change. But when I got there, it was a simple conversation, like in your daily life,” said Urban Manager Miso Mvelase, chuckling.
Industrial Engineering Lecturer Bontle Tladi, who ventured into the portal on a day off and was connected with different professionals to discuss solutions to climate change, said she appreciated the rich engagement that allowed different voices. “I learned that we can access other worlds through dialogue. By listening, there is so much we can discover,” she acknowledged.
Since its launch, the portal has been part of the 2023 FIFA World Cup connected conversations, the South by Southwest festival, and the Transform Summit in Las Vegas in the United States, among other pertinent conversations.
Social and creative entrepreneur, Hector Dibakoane who serves as the portal curator highlights that since the launch, guests have included award winning Poet Sophokazi Jonas, BMW Board Member Markus Hipp, Makers Valley Partnership CEO Thobile Chittenden, local youths and many other makers and changemakers. “Our community members received this portal so well. I love seeing people’s faces light up when they enter. I have even had people ask me if they can come to the portal every day,” said an amused Hector.
Makers Valley Partnership CEO Thobile Chittenden believes the portal amplifies the voices of community members and empowers them to share their lived experiences, connect with diverse communities and contribute to discussions that shape the future.
“This platform can have a significant impact on the lives of young people in the community by empowering them to engage in important conversations and take action on issues that matter to them,” she commented.
The portal project comes to Johannesburg as a collaboration between Shared Studios, a New York arts and technology collective, and Makers Valley Partnership- a non-profit organisation that supports social and creative enterprises in Johannesburg.
Anyone who wants to take part in these global conversations can visit the portal for free. Interested parties should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a session.
About the Author:
Noluthando Mdayi is a member of ACTIVATE! Change Drivers writers hub, a Journalism graduate with a passion for youth development. As an avid reader, she believes in the power of knowledge and education to transform lives. She is committed to promoting literacy and education in underprivileged communities.