About networking and the outcome of missing project management

Friday last week we met with the IT technicians from the Ohangwena, Oshana and Oshikoto regions at the Ministry of Education (MoE) in Ondangwa for the first time (Oshikoto and Ohangwena sharing the same premises there). After having three hours tech talks we also had the chance to met the Director for the Oshikoto region and the Deputy for Ohangwena.Ovamboland IT summit in Ondangwa: Victor, Garius, Ben, Andrew and Johannes
All four regions (called four O Regions; they account for almost 1/3 of Namibia’s total population!) have quite the same IT related problems. Therefore we agreed to have a monthly IT meeting to coordinate the work in the regions and discuss technical issues.
The week before I went on my first ‘business trip’ to the MoE in Rundu (Kavango Region) where I’ve been visiting Tom who is working there as an management/IT advisor for Interteam for more than three years. Besides tech talks he was able to give me quite some insights about the MoE in general. Working together will be more tricky due to the distance – Outapi-Rundu, one way around 700Km.Finishing paper work after the trip to Rundu with a government car: Mazda, 2009, 20'000Km on the clock - to the left my private one, Mazda, 1996, 297'000Km! - feels like being 'downgraded' from First to Economy class on a long haul flight...
Although I didn’t make one single mouse click during those days I think that in the long run this kind of network building will have a bigger and much more sustainable impact on the region than any technical solution (fancy or not) brought in. In my book a lack of communication and coordination between the stakeholders (Windhoek Head Office, Regional Offices, third party Service Providers and NPO/NGO’s) are some of the central issues. Another one is proper project management. To give you an idea about that:

The day I went to Rundu
I was about to leave the Ministry before lunchtime when a car with a Windhoek license plate stopped in front of the building. First I thought a lost tourist couple, but it turned out to be one technician from PASTEC and a volunteer from Peace Corps coming all the way from Windhoek. Their task: installing the PASTEL ERP (SAGE SESAM) and linking it with the Regional Council. Their assumptions:

  • the region had been informed that they are coming. That was not the case. Neither someone at our Ministry nor at the Regional Council seemed to had a clue. In addition to that the national, ministerial sport event took place in Keetmanshoop during that week. Therefore half of the staff was not available – including Victor, the IT officer.
  • a running server and network. We’re still waiting for the equipment since the end of last year. Cables are in place but due to the lack of tools we were not able to repair the connectors so far.
  • three brand new client PC’s. We got the delivery LAST Friday.
  • a dedicated line to link us with the Regional Council. Actually another funny story. Let’s say: installed but at the wrong place.
  • The Finance and Procurement Department are in the same building. Finance is still situated in the main building in Outapi and Procurment 3Km outside in Nakayale.

To sum up: except for running power none of the requirements for the PASTEL installation had been complied. Putting everything on hold and figuring out what went (terrible) wrong would had have been the only real choice. With that believe I left Outapi after lunchtime heading to Rundu. Two hours later I got a call from the Peace Corps volunteer informing me that they were proceeding with the installation on some of the existing PC’s. That made my day.

We now have PASTEL running on three older client computers, one of them acting as the server with no backup procedures in place the other two compromised by viruses. The users are again working with full administrative privileges, for some reason our expensive Kaspersky anti virus software had been replaced with a free solution, new network cables have been placed ‘temporarily’ instead of having the existing repaired – and someone for sure will receive a nice bill.

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