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[Interview] Felix Samakande, Zimbabwe

DiploFoundation Internet Governance Capacity Building Programme (Diplo IGCBP): Hello Felix! Can you give us a short introduction about yourself?

Felix Chaipachii Samakande: My name is Felix Samakande from Zimbabwe, currently based in New York, USA on a diplomatic assignment. I am a Second Secretary in the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Zimbabwe to the United Nations where I participate in debates in the Administrative & Budgetary Committee, or 5th Committee. \

In addition, I cover, multilateral ICT conferences at the UN, among them: ICT4Development; Committee on Sustainable Developement and UN-GAID.

My third hat is administrative assistant in the Embassy. Because of my flare in ICTs, the Ambassador extended me the offer from DiploFoundation on IG capacity building course, which I accepted.

Diplo IGCBP: Can you tell us more about your involvement with Information and Communication Technologies?

Felix: Prior to my assignment to New York, I actively participated in the Zimbabwe e-Government project and now felt I could share with other students my experiences. The e-Gov project was the reason for my attending several IT courses which earned me a slot in the training

During a class discussion at the University of Zimbabwe, on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, it dawned on me one day that I was in search of 'self actualization' which manifested itself in an accumulation of several qualifications in IT. At this juncture, I already had an established career in diplomacy and decided that I would use my passion for IT to give something back to the country especially after seeing the thirst that existed for ICT literacy.

My passion for wisdom in ICTs is still burning strong and I hope to be able to
channel my energies through the multilateral forum debates at the UN. Beyond my diplomatic assignment, I hope to continue giving my government relevant advise on ICTs while at the same time running an ICT consultancy, which I have started putting together.

Diplo IGCBP: How were the dynamics at the capacity building programme that was funded by tge EU and administered by the ACP group of states?

Felix: The capacity building program is well structured as a foundation for IG without throwing students in the deep end and leaving room for inputs from all participants. Looking at the class composition, the tutor is faced with the dynamics of professionals of different
persuasions, with dissimilar experiences, but under one umbrella that seeks to converge their collective knowledge towards one goal. Add to the medley their different literacy levels and contrasting time zones then the matrix is almost complete.

I would say the tutor handled all the dynamics with so much grace.

The weekly live sessions were the peak performance test and I speak from experience because I had the honor to host one live session. While the experience was full of adrenaline and exciting for me, I came out of it with a lot of respect for the tutor, Stephanie.

Diplo IGCBP: So now is the programme over? Will you continue to pursue endeavors in Internet governance?

Felix: DiploFoundation succeeded in putting their finger on the problem; the need for IG capacity development in developing states. It is highly commendable that the capacity development does not end with the completion of one or two phases, it continues in blogs and forums
that the foundation hosts. This afterlife or mainstay is relevant in that technology is changing at a fast pace such that a course in 2010 can diminish in relevance by 2011.

The challenge for Diplo could be in continuing to host these blogs as the population of participants inflates.

Diplo IGCBP: Which of the modules/baskets in the capacity building programme you enjoyed the most?

Felix: The socio-cultural basket had higher significance for me because it put a human face to the whole IG study. The concern for the physically challenged, vulnerable groups and people's privacy all resonated with my humane side.

There is a general tendency to talk of lofty technological structures and exploits without putting a human face to the plot. Of specific
interest to me is how the discussion will play out concerning cloud computing vs privacy protection. State security and human rights advocates all have stakes in this discussion. Meanwhile the industry is already selling cloud computing as the de-facto model for the future and building castles for it already.

Diplo IGCGP: And what are your current plans?

Felix: I am setting up an ICT consultancy company that will be self sustaining yet aimed at helping curb ICT literacy levels in my immediate society. One of the trajectories to the project is provision of free ICT courses online. The courses will also be packaged for interested schools and institutions of learning. The income generating side of the project will include ISP services, digital forensics services, and data warehousing in readiness for the cloud computing craze.

In preparation, I am acquiring my digital forensics certification and will start procuring the server farm equipment in the near future. The project is currently self sponsored and essentially a work in progress.

One of the challenges I observed over the years is that it is that careers in ICTs have a competitive disadvantage especially in developing countries. If two college graduates join a company, one with a Computer Science Degree and another with a Business Administration Degree, the promotion prospects are brighter for the latter while the earlier can hit the ceiling at IT department manager. This competitive disadvantage is discouraging students from pursuing ICT related careers. For that reason, one aspect of my project will be to promote entrepreneurship in ICTs for those with the right passion or flare.

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