Getting ahead in ICT in Tanzania

Recently a young man from Arusha wrote to me asking for help in beginning a career in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). He had a grasp of basic ICT skills, but wasn’t sure where to go from there. It strikes me that many Tanzanians are in similar situations. This week I want to give you some pointers on how to learn more about ICT. I will concentrate on identifying why you want to learn more ICT, and how to select an ICT course appropriate to these goals.

Why ICT is important

ICT is of growing importance in Tanzania. Computer technologies help businesses and individuals in a range of tasks, from the composition of letters to the keeping of accounts. Connected to the internet, a computer can send email to the other side of the world in seconds at costs lower than imaginable five or six years ago. More and more people are seeing typewriters and accounts books they used in their jobs replaced by computers. These days, to lack ICT skills is to be disadvantaged on the jobs market and disempowered socially. Tanzanians are quick to notice such trends, and as a result many are keen to learn more. However, ICT is a very broad field, covering everything from databases to electronic communication. Where to start in learning it?

Know why you want to learn – what do you want to do?

When setting out to learn something it is always a good idea to know why you want to learn it. This will help you set goals which you can work towards achieving.

Different people use computers for different purposes. A doctor might use his to store information about patients in a database. An accountant might use a spreadsheet to keep financial records for his clients. A journalist might use her computer to write articles and email them to her editor.

Look at your own situation and try to work out how computers might help you.

Identify your goals

It is likely that one of the following situations suggests how computers might improve your life:

  • You know nothing about computers and feel disadvantaged
  • You see attractive jobs offered that require computer skills you do not have
  • You want to take advantage of cheap and fast communications available in internet cafes
  • You feel that your business would benefit from the use of ICT
  • Using a computer would help you teach or learn more effectively

If you can find someone who has solved these problems successfully, ask them how they did it. Chances are they will tell you they read a book, taught themselves on the job, or that they went on a training course.

For many people, taking a course is the best way to learn – placing your trust in a skilled teacher is a tried and tested method older than the hills.

Like my maasai friend, many of you will decide that a course is the best way forward.

Choose a course that fits your needs

When selecting a course, remember – the most important rule is to make sure that the course helps you achieve your goals.

If you have no experience with computers then you might seek a beginners course. This should cover at least the following:

  • Using a keyboard
  • Using a mouse
  • Words used in computing
  • The different parts of a computer
  • Using Graphic User Interfaces (GUIs)
  • File management
  • Protecting yourself and others against computer viruses
  • How to look after computer equipment

Learning these skills will enable you to learn about other aspects of computing that interest you.

Almost all computer schools will offer a basic ICT skills course such as this. It is a good idea to shop around – find out what is offered by each school. Ask for an outline of the course. Speak to other people who are studying there. Are they happy with what they are learning? If possible ask to attend a sample lesson before committing your money. You will be able to tell if the teachers are really teaching you. Remember that your goal is to learn something useful, not just obtain a certificate.

Do not make your choice based on price alone – cheap courses may not be good value for money. Make sure to ask the following questions before putting any cash down:

  • How much are you paying per hour of teaching?
  • Will you have to share a computer with another student?
  • Will you be charged if there is a power cut?
  • Are the teachers qualified? Ask to see certificates, or for evidence of experience using computers and experience teaching.

The Next Step

If you already have the basic skills you may want to take a more advanced course. The same rules still apply when selecting a course – identify your goals and what you need to achieve them, then choose a course that best meets these requirements.

Arusha Weblogs

Alphonce Mallya wrote in to let me know about his new weblog at gmrecs.blogspot.com where you can read about the activities at a local recording studio.

Originally published in Arusha Times 317

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