Teenage portal developer believes change start with oneself

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Amugongo Mbangula Lameck

 Windhoek

 His dream is to see a better Namibia where transparency, accountability and the rule of law is the order of the day, a place where young people are using their youthful energy to influence change and solve societal problems.

There is no doubt in 23-year-old Amugongo Mbangula Lameck’s mind that this will become a reality in the near future as he believes it all starts with him.

Hailing from Ehenye village close to Oshakati, Lameck chose to be a small light for Namibia and the change he wishes to see. It’s because of this commitment that he decided to use his skills to develop the first Namibian open data portal that he hopes to launch soon.

The portal will serve as one-stop shop for all public data and will enable young people (innovators and entrepreneurs) to use the data by transforming it into applications that enhance service delivery and keep citizens informed, thereby increasing accountability, transparency and citizen participation in the civic of affairs of the country.

“This project was an eye-opener as it taught me that there’s more to life than what I know. It helped me become a problem identifier and the seeker of solutions I am today,” says Lameck.

In 2010 he was awarded a Telecom bursary to pursue his degree in Information Technology at the Polytechnic of Namibia and in 2012 started working at Telecom as an intern. He completed his undergraduate degree in Software Engineering in 2013 and an Honours degree in Computer Science (cum laude) in April 2015.

In 2012 he was involved in the Life Apps project by Tv/e, sponsored by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) with the aim of challenging young software developers from around the world to visit remote communities, experience their everyday hardships and create app solutions to improve their lives.

As part of the project they went to Kaokoland to visit the nomadic OvaHimba people for the first time and to see if an application could enhance their lives.

Lameck is a computer science student, currently pursuing a Master’s degree with specific research interest in open data, open innovation and emerging technologies. Lameck represented Namibia at the International Youth Forum (Seliger) in Russia in 2014 and as a young researcher published a paper, titled “Increasing Open data awareness and consumption in Namibia: A hackathon approach”, which was published at the 13th Culture and Computer Science Conference in May 2015.

Two more scientific papers are to be published in March, titled “Leveraging open data to solve city challenges: A case study of Windhoek Municipality” and “Open Data Portal, a Technical Enabler to Drive Innovation in Namibia”.

In 2014, Lameck won the GDN-UNECA essay competition with his essay, titled  “Imagining the Future of Africa 2025” and was invited to attend the 15th Global Development Network Conference in Accra, Ghana.

In 2014, Lameck was also invited to attend the Southern Africa Innovation Forum, co-hosted by the Southern Africa Innovation Support (SAIS) and the South African Development Community (SADC) to discuss innovation policies in the region. At the summit, he was also a member of the high level panel representing the youth in innovation.

Lameck currently serves as the country ambassador of 1 Billion Africa, a youth organisation that intends to instil a culture of problem solving among Africans, especially the youth.

“Running a technology innovation hub and seeing innovation prosper in Namibia is my dream”, he says.

Last year he was selected to participate in the Brightest Young Minds Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, which brought together about 100 bright young people from all over the continent, to act and seek solutions to Africa’s problems together.

“Our society creates the wrong impression that only those who rose from poverty or come from poor families are champions. However, irrespective of the social status of our families, we all have problems.”

Lameck admits that he was always a bit egocentric and full of himself. However, losing his mother to cancer at the tender age of 14 was a huge turning point in his life. He was at a crossroad, where he had to choose between giving up on life or continue moving. It was hard, but because of the good support system he received from his family and friends he coped.

Although it was a tough lesson, losing his mother humbled him and made him see life from a non-egocentric perspective. “Those who have little are faced with the challenge of uncertainties and those who have are faced with the challenge to remain humble and not take what they have for granted. Growing up in a financially stable family, with my father, a teacher, and mother, a nurse, my challenges and struggles were never about materials, but principles,” he says.

Lameck, along with his colleagues, provide free android training and teach young people how to develop mobile applications. This year they have challenged themselves to train 10 000 youth for free through the “Coding the Namibian Way” project which they plan to launch with the National Youth Council (NYC) later this year.

“Seeing young people learn how to code brings me so much joy. I’ve decided that this is my way of giving back to my Namibia and I will do it for free,” he says.

He urges fellow youth to work together. “Never allow society to limit what or who you can be, for you can be more than just one thing. My fellow young people stop walking alone, stop doing things alone, collaborate with one another,” he advises, adding that either one makes the best out of the world and help shape it or live in the world created by others.

 

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