Delving into the d6 Communicator

If you have a child in school in SA, your selected school is, most likely, communicating with you via the d6 Communicator.

The d6 communicator has grown up in many ways, and is now available as a desktop application, mobile application and mobisite. It’s proven to be a useful, efficient and effective tool that facilitates communication between schools and parents. It’s also quite environmentally friendly, as the sheer number of paper notices and the like that need to be distributed by the school is substantially decreased. I decided to do some investigation into the d6, because it’s been a topic of conversation among friends and fellow parents recently.

Classroom1

Parental Perspectives
Over the years, as we’ve chopped and changed schools, I’ve noted how different schools use the system in different ways. One school was absolutely terrible at keeping it updated, which was frustrating at times, while another seemed hell-bent on ensuring that we all ‘enjoyed’ pop-up alert notifications on our phones and computers five times a day. Luckily, our current school is using it quite effectively, and I have no complaints in that regard. What is a concern for parents, especially in recent times, is that the security level of the d6 communicator didn’t seem up to scratch. Some parents noted that because the d6 communicator can be downloaded by anyone, school information, pictures and possibly personal details of children, staff and the like can easily be obtained.

A Good Guidance Guide
Good practice dictates that, to share or use an image of a child you need parents’ written permission, especially when it comes to advertising. In short, if your school has a Facebook page, magazine, Twitter account or the like, they should obtain written permission to use an image of your child before posting (and you are entitled to decline giving that permission too). Yes, the d6 Communicator does not focus on its advertising mechanisms as its primary business, but the service does run advertisements that display to users when they’re viewing content. Nonetheless, I was quite keen to learn more about how the d6 team sees things.

The d6 Team
Luckily for me, I was able to chat to a member of the d6 team and get their insight into how it all operates. Chatting to Dawie Pieterse, it’s now apparent that schools can elect to have a layer of authentication or security enabled to protect the content that they post to d6. Dawie tells us that: “Most of our current schools select the non-authenticated version, because they only publish information that they deem to be public knowledge, because they want as many family members as possible to view information about the school and the child’s news at school, like grandparents. If a new school requires an authenticated d6 Communicator we have the option available at no extra cost. If a school who is a current client wants to migrate from a non-authenticated version to authenticated, there will be a development fee of R 500 (excl. VAT).” That’s not much of a cost for adding security to your school’s d6 Communicator, so parents – it’s time to ask your schools to consider this – the system can be upgraded to provide an extra layer of security at minimal cost.

Extra Functions
I have to admit that I’ve never really explored all the options available to us as parents, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the d6 team has added SMS functionality to the system. I’ve always thought that using SMS technologies to immediately inform parents when an extra-mural is cancelled or the like is super useful – also, popping parents an SMS when a child is sick, rather than handling the cost of a phonecall could be pretty effective! Anyway, Dawie told us that they’ve even extended and refined the SMS service: “The SMS function has been available to schools for a few years. SMS messages are limited in length but great for one on one or group communication. Our SMS package also includes USSD functionality for schools.  Since the implementation of the “Red Alert” – a red push notification message that changes the communicator’s colour, we have seen a sharp decline in the need for SMS messages. The  “alert” messages are free for the school to use and schools are currently sending about 5 million alert messages a month.”

Looking ahead
Of course, technology and modern life expects and requires innovation – something that the d6 team takes to heart. Dawie explains: “The d6 Communicator wants to connect the school with the parents and will always look for opportunities to make life simpler for both. We have identified and developed exciting features that will be rolled out early in 2016. d6 has partnered with Liberty and MTN to unlock value for schools and MTN has zero-rated the d6Communicator, so that every parent that uses MTN will not pay for data when using the school communicator. Liberty will support the schools and parents with value added projects throughout the year.”

Cath Jenkin

As a mom, Cath raises her daughter with a strong focus on technology, as she believes that digital literacy is as important as learning to read. With a long history of creating content for online and print publications, and in particular as a parenting columnist, Cath brings her curious mind... Read more

2 Comments
Philipa Farley

Hello, Dawie! I’m glad they’ve added in the authentication layer, Cath. Also, I think a lot of it is awareness about the photos going out, what type, names, etc. When we first set D6 up at SJS, we used smses. It was really easy to set up groups for different sports or grades which was better than sending out the alerts that go to everybody. Great article.

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