Tanzania trains in the Netherlands

Posted by Niek Huizenga on July 11, 2010

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Last week I had to give training to three staff members of the Tanzanian Public Service College (TPSC). Since 2008 I’m working on behalf of the organization CINOP on a project in Tanzania. In this project we assist TPSC in their ambitions to professionalize their organization. One of the main tasks is upgrading their ICT facilities and information resources. In 2009 we’ve managed to realize an information resource center (IRC), a room with computer workplaces and an online portal with access to various online (free of charge) information.

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The situation at TPSC

TPSC now has the facilities to make full use of new ICT and Internet technologies. The project will end later this year and TPSC will be responsible for the future upkeep of the facilities and to promote these resources to staff members for further professionalization of the organization. The success will depend heavily on the skills and competences of the TPSC staff members who are responsible for the IRC and ICT labs. TPSC management decided that the leading staff members responsible for the ICT facilities and IRC should attend a training in the Netherlands. The attendees were Williamson Ferdinand, Gwamaka Mwailolo and Alexander Benedicto.

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The training program

The two week training was divided in two parts: a training in Internet Application Technologies and library management at my place in Groningen and a training on Advanced System Management at Roel Schreibers place in Venray. During the training in Groningen the participants were provided with examples of best cases. The training provided a better overview of the possibilities of Internet Technologies, library management and system management. The new obtained knowledge and skills could be directly applied at TPSC.

We started the program on Monday. We created a blog environment so we could write our daily reports about the findings and new ideas that could be used at TPSC.  The blogs can be found on:

Later we went to the public library where mrs. M. Ellen showed us the collection of physical materials (books, journals, dvd’s), but also showed us the supporting digital systems like catalogues, search engines and online resources.

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Tuesday we had workshops on RSS, personal news, wiki’s, social bookmarking, and search techniques. The TPSC article we created on Wikipedia can be found on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanzania_Public_Service_College. We also setup three test servers so open source Internet Technologies like WordPress CMS and Moodle E-learning could be tested.

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On Wednesday mrs. Bos of the University Library had prepared a very complete excursion for the participants. We started with a lecture about the role of the library in the University. This was followed by a tour. The tour emphasized that the library is not only an information resource center but also a central hub where students and University staff can do their studies, share their ideas and have social meetings. After lunch we had a meeting with the library director mrs. Nieboer. She offered her help to give TPSC access to more information resources and share best cases. At the end of the day mrs. Bos showed us around in the special departments of the library and the archives. She also explained how the processes within the library work and how people apply policies and rules.

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On Thursday we went to the Hanze University where mr. Sennekool and mrs. Nijhuis prepared a workshop on e-learning. We practiced the use of the e-learning platform Blackboard and had demonstrations on online exams systems, video lectures and environments with open access learning materials.

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On Friday we’ve visited the University Datacenter. The whole week we looked at the front end of the systems but now we could take a look at the technical infrastructure behind all these technologies. The system administrators mr. Strikwerda and mr. Bulthuis showed us how all technical infrastructure is managed for the whole University so 50.000 students and 10.000 staff members can use their systems daily without any problems.

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On Saturday the participants worked on their reports and final presentations. Later that morning we took the car to Venray where Roel Schreibers continued the second part of the training.

It was a very intensive week where every day and evening was packed with activities. Fortunately we’ve also made time to enjoy the world cup football matches. Al dressed up in orange we enjoyed the victories of the Dutch team against Slovakia and Brazil.

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The next steps

Friday 9th of July it was time to present the results. Williamson, Gwamaka and Alexander prepared a presentation at CINOP where they presented their findings and how they could bring their new ideas in to practice at TPSC.

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The conclusion of the presentation was that change at TPSC is the most important. The ICT infrastructure and the IRC are not yet seen as strategic assets by TPSC. It is seen as an operational annoyance that costs money. But in fact: ICT is a strategic asset that should improve the performance of TPSC and to make TPSC more professional and competitive.

The fundaments are now available at TPSC: the technical facilities are in place and the responsible staff members have a sufficient level of knowledge and skills. Now it is time to convince TPSC staff members of the benefits of using ICT. A big challenge awaits. Not only strong support of TPSC management is necessary but also they need the awareness that ICT is of strategically importance for the organizational performance.

Williamson, Gwamaka and Alexander need to keep their momentum. They can’t fall back in the ongoing business when they are back home. They have to convince TPSC management to setup a strategic ICT roadmap that specifies the ambitions of TPSC’s ICT policy for the coming years. TPSC management needs to set an example for the rest of the organization. It is recommended to realize a separate ICT department that directly works under the supervision of TPSC management. It gives the ICT staff more resources and authority in the organization.

For the coming months small successes are essential. There are plans to

  • Update the IRC Information Portal with new content;
  • Realize a new professional website for TPSC;
  • Develop short ICT courses for staff members;
  • Prepare a functional design for e-learning;
  • Organize an open day to promote the ICT facilities and the IRC.

Bottom-up small successes are needed to convince TPSC staff members the benefits of ICT. The small successes will strengthen the top down approach to create the awareness that ICT needs to be a strategic asset if TPSC wants to improve its performance.

It will not be realized overnight. Focus, patience and perseverance are needed before TPSC will fully adopt and apply ICT and online information resources for the benefits of themselves, their students and their organization.

Williamson, Gwamaka and Alexander I wish you all the best with your important quest!!!

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