Garrison Tech Cluster: “With the internet, you can do anything” – Wisdom Ofoni

 Walking into the Garrison Tech Cluster was a surreal experience the first time. I had heard so much about the place, seen it so many times as I rode or drove past, and read so many articles about it. So this time around, I decided it was time to visit the cluster and find out for myself if the stories were true, which of them were farfetched and what stories I could add to the mix. I alighted the taxi just below the Garrison bus-stop sign on Aba Road Expressway and stared across the busy road at the bustling marketplace before me. It was a jumble of stalls, large umbrellas of different colours and shade, garishly coloured signs in bright neon and the deafening cacophony of hundreds of power generators. The cluster seemed to buzz like a hive, from a distance I could feel the intensity of the place – a pulsating excitement characterised by the bustle as people darted about in varying degrees of excitement, hands bristling with various gadgets. I crossed the road with trepidation, anxious about what I would find and yet curious. The cluster seemed to yawn open before me, hundreds of shops with doors wide open, large industrial fans fighting to preserve the cool against the heat of the laptops and gadgets. A jean-clad young man walked up to me, mouth open in a gap-toothed grin. “Bros, you want to repair a phone?”

I was in the cluster.

The Garrison Tech cluster is a collection of inter-related tech businesses found at the Garrison axis of the Aba Road Expressway. These businesses range from Software to hardware repair, sale and maintenance stalls, for computers and mobiles, CCTV installation, Tech Security software protocols etc. These businesses are run by young men and women from different parts of the country, separated by tribe, social caste and education and united by a love for technology and a desire to use that technology to the utmost in the fulfilment of their dreams.

As part of the Garrison Tech cluster series, I met with Wisdom Ofoni who has been at the cluster for six years. Wisdom who hails from Bayelsa state, agreed to talk to me at his office which he shares with a colleague and friend who we have interviewed earlier in this series – Barisiere Godfrey. I talked to Wisdom and got a few insights into his life and the reason why he came to the cluster.

“I love creativity, I love challenges”

The young man who is in his early thirties kept a slight grin on all through his talk with me. On occasion his eyes would dart to one of the two computer screens in front of his while he checked the 22 downloads he had ongoing, but asides from that he paid me his full attention. “I love creativity, I love challenges. I took it as a challenge to go into the field and do what others cannot do. That is what brought me to Garrison,” he smiles. Wisdom Ofoni performs the usual Garrison tech cluster services – flashing and unlocking of mobile devices and upgrading them, and then he goes a step further with installing CCTV cameras as well as installing marine communications systems. He also works on Mac and Windows operating computers. “I mainly work on the software, but for CCTV and marine communications installation, I work with both the hardware and the software.”

“I did not go to computer school”

Wisdom’s father died shortly after he finished from secondary school. Back then in 2001, he had applied and secured admission into an art school in San Francisco, the death of his father however put a stop to those plans. Stalled in his attempt to study art, which had always been his passion, Wisdom turned to IT. “I had a friend who worked at a cybercafé and I would visit him there. Every day I went to the cybercafé and watched the engineers work, unscrewing the computers and making them work again. This was when I fell in love with IT”. He had access to the computers at the cybercafé and from watching the hardware engineers and videos on YouTube, Wisdom began to develop the foundation of the knowledge that would earn him a shop at the Garrison Tech cluster.

“My sister gave me a laptop that I loosened and played with. I discovered the location of the hard disk and the RAM and practically turned it upside down. Eventually, I got hired at the cybercafé,” he adds with a smile. “As an engineer. I did not go to computer school.” He eventually left that cybercafé for another where he was better trained to repair computer systems by seasoned engineers.

Working for free for five years

Wisdom first came to the cluster in 2007. Back then his iPod had a problem and he had come to the cluster to fix it. At the cluster he met Obinna who took the iPod and jailbreaked it. Jailbreaking is the process of removing the restrictions on a mobile device so it can accept third party applications. After watching Obinna work, Wisdom went home and tried to practice. It was not long afterward that he came back to Obinna and volunteered himself as an apprentice. “I worked for free for 5 years,” he says with a wide grin. In the first 2 years, he only worked part-time for Obinna, spending the rest of his time at the cybercafé where he also worked as an engineer.

Obinna is still in the cluster and both of them have remained friends and Wisdom has not regretted the decision that he made.

Nigerians can excel at IT

When asked why he came to Garrison, his eyes flash as he answers with conviction. “I came to create a job for myself instead of waiting for the government to provide me with one. I have created in this place, a white collar job not just for myself, but for others too.” He shows me his brother who works for him and gets paid for it and another young man who he has also employed. Wisdom not only employed them, but he has also housed the young men in his house till they can stand on their own feet. “I want to carry them along and show them that they can achieve what I have achieved. The world needs to know that Nigerians can excel at IT”.

A passion for security

Wisdom has a passion for security and wants to develop an IT firm in a few years so he can combat the insecurity situation in countries like Nigeria. “If you go to the hospital, you can easily gain access to anyone’s medical record. Hospitals in developed countries store their patient’s files in databases that can only be accessed under specific authorization. In Nigeria, it is too easy to gain access to privileged medical records. If the person suffers from a contagious disease like HIV, it can lead to stigmatization which can hurt the person”. To work as a security expert, Wisdom admits that he needs a license. Even though he has been working on his own in Garrison Tech Cluster for over a year now, he still has not registered a company. He has however sent in names to the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria to start the process.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

“In 5 years time I see myself bigger than this. My firm would be registered and I would be the CEO employing younger ones. I want to give the younger people an opportunity to make something out of their lives. In Nigeria, very few 18 year olds know how to create a CV when applying for jobs. This is not the case in the Western world, over there young people between the ages of 15 and 18 have CVs and can apply for jobs. I want Nigerian adolescents to know that there is nothing wrong with having a CV now. Gain experience and learn how to work for yourself. This way life would be easier for them as young adults”

What challenges do you face here?

“The major challenge is the internet connection. With good internet, you keep yourself up to date, and be informed on the new things that are coming out. If a customer comes for software work, you have to run that job on the internet to make it easier. If you don’t have access to the internet it is a great challenge. We have security challenges too. My neighbour was robbed at night after we had closed for the day. Other than that, I can think of no other challenges. Yes, there is a lot of competition, if you do not have internet connection and are not upgrading yourself frequently, you will not last long in the business. Studying and leaning to update myself, in order to know the new things, is how I stay ahead of the competition. Studying online, reading tech blogs and joining GSM forums to know challenges they are having is a great way to stay ahead.”

Personal life

Wisdom is married with two children, Princess, a girl who is older at 10 years and Justice, a boy, who is 3 years. His wife’s name is Timi. They live in a 3 bedroom apartment at Akpajo on the outskirts of Rivers state from where Wisdom journeys every morning to the Garrison Tech Cluster. Asides from his little family, Wisdom also houses some other relations and one of his staff of two, making a total of seven people in his house. Timi sells diesel fuel at retail from a shop close to the house when she is not taking care of the children. Both his children attend school – Justice is just about to resume as a Primary 1 pupil with the new session while Princess starts at Junior Secondary School 1.

I asked him one last question before I left his shop.

If your father was still alive, or you had been able to secure admission to art school would you be here?

“I cannot say for certain where I would be, only God knows that, but I am happier here”

This post was originally posted here as part of a series I assisted in curating on the Garrison Tech Cluster in Port Harcourt.

What I learned at the GDG UX Master Class

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The Google Developer Group (GDG) Port Harcourt organized a UX Master Class for the 14th to 15th of August – last week Friday and Saturday, and as one of the early applicants, I got an invite to participate in the event. The venue of the event was Focus Hub, a growing tech hub in Port Harcourt and it was to this place that I journeyed on Friday along with Kelechi Ogbonnaya and Michael Matthew of Netopps Digest.

GDG Port Harcourt is a collection of young and talented developers who are interested in developing automated solutions to problems while using Google technologies. The User Experience (UX) Master class is one of the events organized by the GDG and it teaches interested people what they need to know, to think about and to do to launch the right kind of product for specific users. As a content developer to whom any string of code different from “System.out.println” is a complete anathema the thoughts of the class initially scared me, but it did not take long for me to discover that User Experience had nothing to do with code. The following are some of the things I learned from the class.

2

Focus on Users

This is one of the fundamentals of UX. It is easy to design products, but the emphasis at all times should always be on the user. Whatever design is incorporated into the product, whether it is an app or otherwise, the focus should be on what the user would like to see and do with your product. Designing the product to meet the user – rather than your needs, is what provides the perfect user experience.

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Do your research

Another fundamental of UX, this one states that before launching a product, you should always carry out as much research as you can. Research the product area – this refers to the particular industry or aspect in which your product is focused, and your competition. Irrespective of whatever product you develop, a competitor likely exists. Researching that competition gives you an insight into the product the competitor offers and provides an avenue to identify the loopholes present in the product so that you can easily plug it.

5

Strive for simplicity

The KISS rule is a fundamental of UX. Nobody likes an app or a product that is too complex to use. This does not mean that the product should not solve a complex problem or have a complex mechanism in its solution – read, a bunch of strings of code, but the application of the product should be simple to users. For example, the principles behind mobile telephony would confuse a lot of users, but the ease and simplicity with which a user can access a network from almost any location is what makes the user experience so interesting.

10

Prioritize speed

When designing a product for a user, make the most important actions the easiest to perform. If you build an ecommerce app and the Checkout point is difficult for a user to perform, you mar the user’s experience and this would go a long way in damaging your retention curve.

Never stop learning

This everlasting lesson is also a fundamental for User Experience. No matter what you do or how far you go with your product, never stop learning. Keep researching ways to improve your product while ensuring your user remains satisfied.

Solve big problems

Your product should always focus on a big problem. Identifying the big problems in society is not a very difficult task and what the user experience class taught in this respect was how to understand big problems and create simple solutions for them.

“Go Wide, Go Narrow, Test and Iterate!”

Creating the perfect User Experience goes through 3 phases which are founded on the principle above. The first phase is where you collect the requirements necessary for the product, evaluate your competitor and size the opportunity. The second phase is the really practical part of UX and is shown as a cycle of Designing the product, Testing the design on users, Analyzing the feedback from the user, Refining the design and going back to Design. After a good design has been gotten, the next phase is when you launch the product. User Experience does not end after launch. Metrics on sale and retention, user feedback and FAQs would be collected and evaluated and you would then go back to the design table.

In the task given to my team, we tackled the problem of a persona called Kainda who is a 24 year old part-time Economics student and Bank Account Manager. Kainda spends money using mostly electronic channels to shop for food, entertainment, fashion etc. and is worried about her spending. She is interested in saving up money to buy clothes and she would also like to keep track of her expenditure. We came up with a concept to satisfy Kainda’s needs by first identifying her major problem before narrowing to the smaller problem. In the end, we created a concept for an app that not only helped Kainda to save money, but also helped her to keep track of her spending on all the different categories she was spending on.

I truly enjoyed my experience with the GDG UX Master Class. It was thrilling to reason with the many brilliant young people who also participated. Some of them were developers already affiliated with Google, others were artists, writers – like me, and tech enthusiasts. Solutions developed from the UX Master Class were later collated for programming by GDG programmers. And I am already looking forward to counting the dollars the app designed by team would rain in very soon. GDG Port Harcourt has other events lined up for the year 2015 and I am eagerly waiting for their announcements so I can participate again.

NB: This post was originally published here

Challenge Twenty Five: Christopher Anenih

Wrote this for Vunderkind’s blog. visit at http://www.iraborjustin.wordpress.com okay. Bye.

Welcome to A.g(r)eek!

****I read this by 3:00am in the morning. Dead of the morning. Not a soul was awake. And I laughed like a banshee. And my landlady lives close to me. Can I crash at your side, friends? It will only be temporary, until I fix myself up. Thanks**
Mastermind: Janus Aneni
_____________________________________________________________________________________________

IMPACT!

I would like to warn that this entire yarn is entirely ludicrous, but I was assured that it really did happen, from a reliable source. And since hearing this tale, I have learnt a lot, so I tell it to you now.

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FerryTale – 1

I wrote this a while back on http://www.redor.wordpress.com Check out the blog for more of the Ferry tales..

DISCLAIMER: NOT HUMAN

Hello sir’s and ma’s. Today we have the Ogbolo inspired @Janus_Aneni here, doing us great service. This is a never before seen excavation of events pertaining the life of the Little mermaid kids know as Ariel. Do read and share your thoughts.

***

When I was a little kid, one of the first gifts I ever got, (actually stole from my grandfather’s library), was an original edition of the Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy tales. Seeing the Disney adaptations later, shocked me a bit as they were too different and had such wishy-washy happy endings. So today, with permission from my boss, @Achi_va, and for the benefit of the ignorant, I would paint a picture of the ORIGINAL Little Mermaid story.
Ehen, for the purpose of disambiguation (which is a fancy word for clarity :- less fancy word for understanding) the term ‘mammywater’ would be replaced by ‘mermaid’, ‘mer’, ‘marine’…

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Bessie

Okay, hello everybody! It’s two days till the End..hope you’ve sewn your Rapture clothes and made your Rapture Brazilian.. 😐
Bad joke.
Anyway, was looking through my old blog, again, and I saw this post I wrote on a very slow day in those days of early February while I went through severe heartaches and minor breakups, and well..I think you should read it.
For the Original post follow
Bessie

For the rest of us lazy folks and of course, those with limited MB, here it is..*sic*..

Bessie

It sounds like; “Help me..save me..” but it keeps getting fainter and fainter, the sounds disappearing as though vanishing into some unknown abyss. And then without warning, the deep voice echoes out of the darkness; “She’s mine now..” Then the voice laughs, a cruel, hideous cackle that chills my bones and jolts me awake.
It was a dream.
But it was reality.
Pushing away my blanket, I stretch my hand to the other side of the bed. It is cold. Cold and empty. She’s gone. Gone right before my eyes. My heart grows sad and a deep pit forms in my stomach. Thus begins my day, as it has been for weeks now. Breakfast is a blur. I eat the food, but I don’t see it. Spoonful after spoonful of cereal entering my mouth in programmed motions. I am conscious of hunger, but I have no appetite. The simple joy of eating has fled me, and what I once loved is now mere activity.
I keep remembering that day. I keep seeing her face. It was all my fault. As she walked out the door that morning in March, I knew. I am not clairvoyant, but I swear I knew as she walked out that she wasn’t coming back. She wasn’t..not except I went after her.
Except I ran after her.
But I didn’t. I am stubborn and now I see where that has gotten me. I remember that day.
Tears warm my cheeks as I drive to work. My concentration is split, but experience and instinct prevent accident. Not like I care. What do I work for? Who do I work for now that she’s gone? Why bother? I smile a little. Those were my thoughts in those late days of March; Why bother? I drowned myself in alcohol then though, with a cluster of friends and a bevy of ladies to assist in drinking my booze and spending my money. Those were hazy days, the hours merging into one another. The stupor helped me forget, until morning and night were only differentiated by hangovers. Until I saw her.
A car is honking behind me. It seems I am driving too slow. I don’t blame the driver, he never had and lost what I had. No one else did. No one else… When I saw her, I stopped. I was in one of my more lucid moments when I saw her. I saw her in a picture. A picture of me and my Bessie. My partner.. The memories come flooding in. I and Bessie had been together for so long. We understood each other, we spoke a language only us could understand. At first my friends didn’t approve of her and our bond, but in time they too grew to like and love her. We went everywhere together. She protected me, I loved her; it was simple. Until that day.
The memory hurts so much I squeeze my eyes to hold back the tears. The job had been telling on me. I was working late hours and Bessie didn’t like it. She let me know, but I wouldn’t care. Then that morning, she just walked out. I called her, but she ignored me. I called out her name, but she just looked at me with those big brown, puppy eyes and kept moving. She wanted me to get up from my desk. To come after her. But I am stubborn. I stuck to my Microsoft Excel sheets and I waited for her, but she never came back.
It’s been four weeks now. She never came back. My cheeks are wet again, the tears flow freely now as I drive into my office parking lot and remember our picture. We had taken it right there. Right by that wall. The picture of me and my Bessie. Me and my dog.
Bessie the dog…


Disclaimer
*
I have had no relations with any animal of any kind, whether canine, feline or amphibian. The last dog I ever had was called Boots and he was blind in one eye.
PS: Though there was this night with this female of certain questionable mammywater characteristics, but that is another tale.

Thanks for reading!

Follow on twitter @janus_aneni

Peace..

The Last Friday

So..Tangles! is over. ( ._.)
It’s really sad for me you know, ending a series and all, but ten episodes and about twenty weeks takes its toll. Anyway, was looking through my old blog and I saw a post I wrote for Friday the 13th in April. It didn’t get quite the publicity so I decided to post again.
Especially since the world ends on Friday..

So uhm..sit back, do what you usually do, and uhm..enjoy!

In case you’ll prefer reading the original, here’s the link..
The Last Friday

The Last Friday..
#np Skin to bone – Linkin Park

I never really believed in ghost stories. I had heard them since I was a little kid, but I knew the truth. Those tales were just a bunch of crap to scare children with. And I wasn’t about to let myself get scared. So even when Mum died three hours after her twin sister, my friend Femi keeps waking up in places he couldn’t have been able to enter, and Dad gets those phone calls from his dead best friend every New Year, I still wouldn’t believe in ghost stories.
That is, until today.

When I woke this morning, everything was normal. My alarm rang on time, the sun rose perfectly and the birds outside were chirping the usual song. My phone notification light was blinking, so I checked the messages: same old, Friday the 13th spoofs. As I swung my feet over the bed to the floor, I woke again. My alarm rang. As I looked out the window, the sun rose and the birds started chirping. Everything was the same. Picking up my phone, I read the messages. The same. Chalking it up as de-javu, I threw off my clothes and walked into the bathroom. Nothing was going to foul up my day.

If only I knew how wrong I was.

Friday has my most lax timetable, so I took my time preparing for class. After an easy shower, I turned on the stereo; time to psych myself for the day ahead. It was while I brushed my teeth, the metal sounds from Linkin Park setting the theme for my day, that I felt the chill. In all the movies, when a ghost is about to appear, everywhere fogs up and the hero’s breath curls out of his mouth in mists. Not in real life.
Without warning my lungs suddenly felt dry, like an icy hand was squeezing the life out of my chest. I would have screamed but I had no breath to. Stumbling out of the bathroom into my room in search of an inhaler, I heard a voice.

“Janus..”
“Ja..nus..”

The voice seemed to rise and fall in a sibilant whisper. All else was silent, the sounds of the birds and Linkin Park all muted to the background. All I could hear was that scary voice and the slow thumping of my beating heart. Then as quickly as it had started, it ended. The hand seemed to lose its grip on my heart, and I fell to the floor right in front of the speakers, as Linkin Park blasted out, “Easier to run”. Heart pumping wildly, I picked myself from the floor and grabbed my inhaler. As I inhaled deeply, the cool air giving life to my lungs, I thought to myself: “It was just an attack, it was just an attack..” I had no idea how true those words would prove.

In the back of the shuttle bus on my way to class, I kept replaying the mornings events in my head. I could not help the feeling that I was being warned. But by whom, and for what? My phone beeped. It was another Friday the 13th broadcast. This one however had a most sinister twist to it. Apparently, every Friday the 13th, a 2nd born and 13th grandchild in any family was claimed by the Devil. Usually, broadcast messages are not specific, but it was not only the specificity of this message that got my attention. I am the 2nd born of my parents! Though, I am the 11th grandchild; my father’s parents had only 12 grandchildren. Breathing a sigh of relief that somebody invented family planning, I deleted the message and relaxed for the first time since I stepped out of bed. At the most, Friday the 13th was a day of bad luck, and the worst was over, the day couldn’t get any worse. I closed my eyes.

The sound of screeching tires snapped me out of my reverie. Throwing my eyes wide open, I stared out through the windscreen. Right in front of the shuttle, a truck carrying iron rods and building materials suddenly lost control. Brakes squealing, the vehicle smashed into a drain at the side of the road, spewing bricks, wood, nails and rods into the road. The driver of the shuttle, swerved to avoid the still skidding truck, but was too late to dodge the contents. The bus rode over a bed of nails and the tires exploded, dragging the vehicle into a spin before crashing into a signpost. The windscreens exploded, showering glass everywhere while the passengers screamed and struggled to get off the bus. And then suddenly, like before, all went quiet and my heart ceased to beat. In the window was a face. She was young, and pale green. Her hair seemed to wave in the breeze, thin tendrils that crossed her face and reached down to her neck. Her eyes were holes; lid-less sockets that seemed to beckon me into the darkness behind. As I stared in disbelief, blood rushing down the side of my head, the ghostly apparition disappeared and my heart started to beat again.

The whole Friday the 13th thing has got to be a joke. There is no way a trail of bad luck could just be following someone; could just be following me. It just had to be coincidence. Those were the thoughts in my mind as I walked out of the Emergency Room at the Health Centre, a gigantic bandage wrapped around my head. Nevertheless, I could still see the face of that girl, her hollow sockets which had stared and stared at me, the face contorted like she wanted to scream at me, but she had no tongue, no voice. I shivered.

It was raining outside. The dark clouds covered the sky, angry and foreboding, unleashing torrent upon torrent of angry rainfall. I stood beneath the porch, my hand resting on the wet wall, contemplating whether to brave the weather and try to get a taxi to take me home. Then a taxi drove up, releasing its passengers. Seeing my chance, I made to dash through the rain when suddenly, a large rat jumped out of the hedge in front of me. The shock caused me to reel back. The rat saved my life. With a flash of white light, lightening sizzled down from the skies, striking the very spot I would have been standing. The electricity crackled the air, the current rushing up the wall where I rested my hand, the force tossing me 3ft into the air. As I landed on the floor, there was a dull thud beside me, and right in front of my eyes were the charred remains of the rat that saved my life. I screamed. As I blacked out, I could hear the rumbling echoes of clashing thunder.

I woke up in my room.

My friend had brought me home in his Mum’s car. The storm had subsided now and he had to return the vehicle. He put on the TV and promised to come back immediately. So I lay on the bed, covered in bruises and bandages, wondering how my day had deteriorated so badly. The morning had been perfect, how could everything have gone so wrong? As I sobbed softly, I decided to call my Dad. He always knew what to do. He picked almost immediately, and I told him everything that had happened since I woke.
“Why is this happening to me Dad? Why me? I’m not even the 13th grandchild!”
Even as I said those words, my mouth froze in mid-scream. For, right there on TV was the girl who I had seen, the one who had called to me. It was a ‘Missing Persons’ report. She had been missing since January; January 13, and there was a reward for whoever found her. But no one would ever find her, ’cause she was dead. And I knew how. I tried to stifle a sob. And then I heard my Dad’s voice on the phone:
“..technically, you are the 13th grandchild, two of your cousins died before you could know them..”

I heard a loud crack, but I didn’t look up. My eyes were fixed on the TV but I knew what had happened. The ceiling fan had loosened from its place and the blades were falling and spinning out of control, spinning in their deadly cycle, aiming for my head.
On the screen, the girl was smiling. Dead and smiling. Dead..

I woke again. The alarm rang, the sun rose, the birds chirped..

“Ja..nus..”

Uhm..c’est fini!

Disclaimer
*I have no knowledge of any such Friday the 13th prophecy. Nevertheless, we know the world would end on Friday!( ˘˘̯)

Hope you had fun! Leave your comments and follow on twitter @Janus_aneni and do subscribe to le blog!
Merci!

Peace.