Ombeni Msuya, who has been working as the sole ICT technician at Tanzania’s National Institute of Transport (NIT), has won an eLearning Africa scholarship to this year’s eLA conference in Tanzania. EAST, the eLearning Africa Scholarship Trust, heard how a 22 year old IT expert born in a small village on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro had worked singlehanded at the country’s biggest transport college, repairing laptops for students, troubleshooting for lecturers, tackling corrupted files on the college database and taking dozens of phone calls from teachers and students struggling with e-mails, websites and blogs. His only colleague was away in India taking an ICT master’s degree.
By Ludger Kasumuni in Dar es Salaam
Ombeni is a tough, soft spoken man coping with a huge task, advising 176 staff members and 530 students on all forms of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at the college in the Mabibo suburb of Dar es Salaam.
Taking telephone calls every few minutes from people with computer problems, he said: “I grew up with ICT. My father taught me how to operate computers at tender age. To me ICT is no miracle.”
His father Eliwaha Msuya had been computer systems administrator for the Evangelical Lutheran Bishop of Pare.
“When I was in secondary school, my father showed me how to help people with computer problems. We get many phone calls in this office and I am all alone here. My colleague is in India taking an ICT master’s degree.
“Most of the heavy workload is helping people who are almost completely ICT ignorant.”
Ombeni designs and updates websites, network infrastructure and blogs, maintains information management systems and runs a help desk for lecturers on content delivery, support tools and ICT training.
He was born in Mbaga village, near the South Pare Range in the foothills of Kilimanjaro: “I completed standard seven at Same Primary School in 2000. I continued with secondary education at Same High School to finish in 2005. I got the diploma in ICT in 2008, and that gave me a chance of doing my field study here at NIT.”
After taking up a temporary post as ICT technician at NIT, the job was declared permanent when the college recognised his ICT ability and his value to both staff and students, introducing ICT applications in business promotion, eLearning and entertainment.
He outlined developments in eCommerce, eGovernment, eCommunication, eAgriculture, eTrading, eBanking and eMedicine and explained: “Without ICT there is no development. ICT is a catalyst for all sources of information.
“It is a cheap source of information and will deliver all the data required for our development initiatives.”
Talking about his own ICT interests, he listed Assessment Tools and Testing, Authoring Tools and Systems, Blended Learning, Computer Based Training, Certification Software, Collaboration Tools and Software, Conferencing Technologies, IT Training, ‘Just-in-time’ Learning, Mobile Learning Applications, Multimedia Publishing, Multimedia Tools and Creation Software, Open Source and Wireless Technologies.
Besides the enormous workload, he pointed out problems facing the many professional people who are still unaware of the capabilities of ICT, the Windows operating system and the newer Ubuntu software, an important Linux-based innovation.
“At NIT I helped many people to use Ubuntu software. It prevents virus invasions. The problem is that most people are unfamiliar with Ubuntu although it is a free and open system, not requiring expensive software. It is a community-based system and freely accessible. Ubuntu is cheap, strong and flexible.”
This young computer star urges boys and girls in primary and secondary schools to prepare for an ICT career as Tanzania is catching up with the rest of the world.
More about EAST, the eLearning Africa Scholarship Trust, can be found at www.easttrust.org.