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Eritrea in the high-tech world: a dream to pursue!

A multi linguist with many careers Yacob Gebretnsae is a 38 year old Eritrean. He has lived in many foreign countries since his young age. In spite of being a part of his homeland at an early age, Yacob have the great love of his country and people and passionately carries a dream to give something back to his community. That is why; he is always active and willing to share his knowledge and experiences. He does everything in his power to do so by donating a number of educational tools and giving free courses in Eritrea. As he measures in Big Data/Business Intelligence, he works hard to make Eritrea join the high technology world in future. As he always does, Yacob was here for just few days and still managed to give a short course to members of the Ministry of Information on Information Technology.
Q&A invites Yacob for a brief chat.

  • Thank you for joining us, please tell us something about you.

I left my country when I was five years old and went to Ethiopia, Bahir Dar. I have valued education since I was young. I began to be interested in languages when I was in junior secondary school and as a result, I learned my language, Tigrigna properly. As learning languages is something I love, Tigrigna, English, Dutch, Swedish, Amharic, Norwegian, Danish are the languages I speak a 100% fluently. I also speak Arabic which can be rated a 50% fluency, and Germany 75%.

Back to my educational journey, I first studied pedagogy and got my BA degree to become a teacher. I then continued my study on operational nursing. After migrating to various foreign countries, I worked hard to pursue my education at the higher level. I then did and did my MSc in Health Information. Again, I studied Medicine at the University of Oslo(UiO) . At last I made my way to study Big Data/Business Intelligence. I am now a Data Scientist, my field that that uses scientific methods to extract knowledge and insights from data.

  • You have participated in various work environment…

I was fortunate enough to gain experience in various work places. I first started working as a teacher and I still am a member of Eritrean Teachers Association. Furthermore, I worked as an Advisor to the East African study at UiO for five years. I also worked as an examiner, sensor for the Ministry of Education, & UiO for 8 years. Not only that, I also worked as the Assistant of an operation nurse for seven years. Currently, I am doing a research on d i a b e t e s t y p e 2 using AI ( Artificial Intelligence) and other tools at the Decision R e s o u r c e s Group. Type 2 diabetes is heterogeneous and I am looking for the missing parts to find solutions. As I also am a business data scientist, I prepare forecast projects for companies such as Apple, Amazon, Ali-baba etc.

  • Would you please tell us about the books you have written so far?

I have written eight books which include the first Norwegian -Tigrigna Dictionary(9th edition). Most of my books are written in Norwegian language. One of my books is self study Norwegian Tigrigna, another one is driving lessons. My books are educational, fictional and non-ficitional. My last book is titled ShaShu and Shamla, which is for children. It talks about the history of Eritrea. I took one city from Eritrea. It teaches kids how to respect and communicate with elders and with each other. How to live in harmony. I am proud to say that it has been translated to 13 languages i n c l u d i n g , A m h a r i c , A r a b i c , D u t c h , Dan i s h , etc. I worked as a consultant at the national library. Since I had colleagues from many countries, it was possible for my book to b e translated into many languages. I am also a member of the Norwegian Authors and Translation Association.

  • When was your first project with Eritrea?

It was back in 2012. I initiated the DHIS2 project in Eritrea. It is a district health information system type 2. It is a plate form which helps control health management many countries use. It is the preferred health management information system in 60 countries and 23 organizations across four continents. DHIS2 is a tool for collection, validation, analysis, and presentation of aggregate and patient-based statistical data. It helps governments and health organizations to manage their operations more effectively, monitor processes and improve communication. I studied health information management system, and I have always believed that Eritrea could benefit from the DHIS2 system. The MOH (Ministry of Health) approved my proposal in 2014 and the project was implemented at a national scale in 2017. The ministry thinks it is a helpful system, and infact, they are doing a documentary film about it.

Additionally, over the years, we have gathered interested individuals and formed an organization that supports “knowledge to our people” project. We have been active in donating educational supplies to ministries in Eritrea. By the way, I would like to thank Mr. Kidane Tekeste, one of the supporters of the project, Mr. Abraham Woldu and the embassy of Eritrea in Stockholm.

  • The recent courses you have given to the MOI staff, what was it about?

I had a very short period of time but still managed to give out some courses to the MOI IT server staff, journalists and editors. The workshop was about various topics concerning Media contents and tools used for media analysis, semiotic analysis, text analysis (which was helpful to the editors), theoretical perspectives and methodology, narrative forms of media analysis and rhetoric forms of media analysis, data quality, sound, video, color, big data, etc. I thought that the ministry can benefit from the courses even though it was a short workshop. I even was working overtime to show them how to use the tools and I think it was a productive workshop that the staff enjoyed. They are fast learners and I was pleased with the result. I am also going to internationally certify one person from the MOI staff. I will pay for the package. Also, I was amazed to see that the Ministry is doing very well in keeping their data in a digitally. All the videos and photos are archived safely. Many countries struggle and spend millions of dollars to transform their data to the digital world, but the MOI is doing a marvelous job. Also, I have learned many things from the staff personally. I am grateful to minister of the MOI, Yemane Ghebremeskel, and head of the ICT Department Mr. Tombosa Asmelash and the entire staff for making it all possible in short time.

  • If there is anything you want to say at last?

We have a beautiful country and caring people, people who have paid the ultimate price to bring us free Eritrea. I want to remind all the Eritreans who have different profession all over the world to share their knowledge and experiences with our community. And by combining all our knowledge and expertise we can build an advanced society.
So, my future plan is to keep working with various ministries and institutions in the country. I plan to come back soon and stay longer. I want to work hard and collaborate with other professionals in advancing our technology standard for the future. I wish to see Eritrea in the highest level of technology, and I am sure that we have the potential and skills to do it. Once more, I encourage the Eritrean youth to read more books and expand their knowledge. I would like to thank everybody that has supported me in my ideas, especially the Embassy of Eritrea in London.


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