OTC, driving Gobabis to better places

In the quest to boost Namibia’s aligning computer illiteracy level in Namibia, Prime Focus has made inroads with a social entrepreneur, Operi Murangi.

Murangi of Ounongo Technology Centre (OTC) in Gobabis, Omaheke Region got his way around ICT through what he coined as an economic revolution, which gave him the ideology that Information Technology (IT) constitutes a large percentage of the economic sector and thus knowledge of it is vital in these modern times.

For the self-driven social entrepreneur who attained his tertiary qualifications from the University of Namibia as a fully qualified Cisco instructor, tackling his way through Prime Focus as he elucidates his journey on setting up and establishing OTC in Gobabis is just the beginning of great things.

Being the brainchild of OTC, which took its first strides through the assistance of the Parliament of Namibia through a programme named ‘Parliament Online’, the dedicated man strongly believes in IT as the backbone of the economy.

He says, “I felt the need to establish a centre where the community could access information about the Parliament, in the same sense compliment the Parliament on its effort in aiding the development of ICT through OTC.”

Gobabis, according to him, is a region whose community has been getting a raw deal in terms of ICT training, which propelled him to introduce an ICT centre.

Last year at a conference he attended organised by the Ministry of Education, ICT was identified as one of the crucial areas that could better aid and elevate the standards of education in Namibia and the integration of ICT in lower level education is of paramount importance.

His quest cannot be undermined as he puts 101% around the clock to see that his goals are met at the end of the day.

It is the perception of most that the centre is basically a one-man’s show that is not hand-in-glove with the community, he says. However, he clarifies that the community is in fact the driving force in this particular project at the centre.

“OTC is not a one-man’s show, it is a community-based centre where the community members themselves take full participation and the youth are at the forefront of this organisation,” states Murangi.

The centre opened its doors as a youth non-profit organisation under the Ministry of Youth, thus Murangi points out that they are directly under the youth directorate, which is their main supervisor.

In terms of the structure and hierarchy as well as the organisational setup, Murangi explains that the structure itself has a board of trustees, which has the higher decision-making power and they are usually elected at the level of a general assembly. He, however, maintains the position of project officer and is basically responsible for the day-to-day processions of the organisation.

Like many organisations, which are self-sufficient, the centre is met with many challenges in its operation. Murangi believes since ICT is dynamic, it is difficult to keep up with the ever changing trends, so one has to be at their level best on a daily basis, which can be costly.

Another aspect he identifies as a challenge is the language barrier as some people in this modern day and age have difficulty in language, especially English, which hampers progress.

Even though the centre is a non-profit one, “there is no free lunch in this world, my friend,” he jokingly says before stating how they generate revenue for the volunteers at the centre who assist the different clientele. The centre provides internet and short courses from which revenue is generated that pays the volunteers and thus shows that it is indeed self-sufficient.

Due to his humble beginnings, Murangi feels his pillar of strength is Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) from South Africa that has assisted him from the very beginning.

For the organisation’s progress, Murangi feels they have achieved a considerable share of goals as they have managed to train young people through computer leadership programmes, thus far, of which a number of them enrolled while very illiterate and had no knowledge of operating ICT equipment.

Again, through the centre, a number of immigration officials from the Kalahari Boarder Post as well as the Namibia Defence Force members who always receive training on the basics of ICT, have benefited too.

At the start of the venture, OTC had very few ICT equipment that they had received from the Parliament. In February this year, the Ministry of Education made available to the centre 20 flat screen desktop computers. So the only problem they currently face is the low level of personnel to operate the equipment.

“In the beginning, this organisation started out as a welfare organisation and it is now time to introduce the commercial aspect to it,” he says adding that for them to expand and generate a proper revenue out of the organisation, its time they changed their strategy as they cannot survive on donor funds forever.

According to him, Omaheke Region’s ITC prospects usually die a natural death because of the non-sustainability models.

If the policy of more established players in the industry were put in place, as he points out, it would enhance chances of ICT survival since it is one of the fastest growing sectors in Namibia.

He says being able to finish projects and assist the different community members determines his personal progress as most of the community members pass through OTC on their way up the corporate ladder.

The future looks bright for OTC as at the moment, Murangi is in talks with the Polytechnic of Namibia to merge so as to expand.

Although ICT training personnel is the missing link in the progress equation, he strongly disagrees with reports that Namibia is lagging behind in ICT.

“Namibia is one of the best countries in southern Africa with good ICT infrastructure as at the moment, we are the second country in Africa to have the 4G network,” Murangi beams. PF