Lee Muzala is one of Zambia’s most talented ICT4D specialists. He is
specialising in the design and development of applications, databases and
websites. CEO of private ICT consultancy firm Trio Consult Ltd. (www.trio-consult.com),
Lee manages Mpoto and a number of other projects, including Study Mate
Are you fed up of finding out
about opportunities only after the submission deadline has passed? Mpoto is a
new on-line tender information service for Zambian companies and foreign
companies interested in doing business in Zambia. A few clicks of the mouse
will take you to www.mpoto.info – the home of tenders and business
opportunities in Zambia. The brain behind this new service is this is Lee
Women in Leadership (Wil) talked
to Lee about Mpoto and some of his many other exciting ICT initiatives.
Q: Lee, where did the idea for Mpoto come from?
A:Mpoto was born out of the frustrations I experienced as a startup
entrepreneur in trying to find out about tenders and business opportunities
easily and quickly. So I used my IT skills to set up a platform that would
enable me and other entrepreneurs to get hold of information about in-progress
Q:When you graduated did you
think then that you would be transforming the way business is done in Zambia?
A: I trained as a systems analyst and computer programmer, way back
in the mid-1990s. I knew that one day those skills would help me contribute in
one way or another to the way that business is done here. I remember my first
job was creating computer programmes - accounting systems, fuel management
systems, warehouse control. Over the years, I’ve designed and developed a range
of information systems for various organisations so in a sense my current
projects are an extension of the work I started several years ago.
Q: You’ve talked about your education, what else do you think got
you where you are today?
A:I firmly believe that no-one
can make things happen for you. You have to do it yourself. And to succeed, you
have to work hard. The ICT industry is very competitive and has a number of
different specialised facets. I chose to focus on those things I could do
really well and consistently perfecting them. It sounds like a cliché but it’s
true to say that you also have to have a passion for what you do. I have always
wanted to do things differently or to do the things that other people may deem
impossible. The feeling of overcoming these challenges is awesome. I love
researching how things work and coming up with ways those things can be made
even better using ICT. Being one step ahead of the competition has always been
something I cherish and strive to achieve. By the time my competitors have
caught up with me, I’m already on to something new.
Q: If you could meet and be like one person in the world (living or
not) who would that be and why?
A: Bill Gates! That man has been an inspiration to me and the way I
work– always striving to make a difference and leave an impact. Bill Gates,
being an expert programmer himself, was closely involved in all of Microsoft’s
creations and was never carried away by the billions he made along the way. One
would have thought that after making so much money, he would have retired to an
idyllic island to relax but instead he continues to focus his time, energy and
his billions on making the world a better place through his philanthropic
foundation. Through my years of admiring Bill Gates and his achievements, I
have seen that he is not a seeker of fame and fortune, even though he has both.
To me, he comes across as a maker of impact. He has achieved all this through
Microsoft on the one hand and by reducing inequality on the other hand through
the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is doing very commendable work around
the world, including Zambia.
Q: After Mpoto, what’s next for you?
A: My goals have helped shape my life and career. I started my
business because of the long-term goals I had set for myself. One of my current
goals is to start a fund that will help a whole bunch of orphaned children to
receive a decent education. Right now I am working on the Study Mate project
that will see Zambian students discover digital learning and revision
Q: Is there a book, movie, song, poem, saying or quote that has
changed your world view or carried you through difficult times?
A: That has to be the movie Hotel Rwanda. In as much as it exposed
the harsh reality of terror and hatred among countrymen, it also taught me
about the importance of world peace and tolerance. I have a friend of Tutsi
origin, now settled in Canada. Right at the height of the genocide in Rwanda we
were with him at college at Evelyn Hone and I remember very clearly his moments
of insecurity. The movie helped me understand his fears.
Q: What advice would you give to our readers about being successful
A:My simple advice to anyone
reading this article is to know what you do and do what you know! I have seen
many people go into the same business as their neighbour, friend or relative. A
business built around your individual strengths and talents will have a much
greater chance of success. And remember, it’s not all about profits, but also
about being happy managing and growing your business day in and day out.
Q: And finally Lee, would you care to share a book that has made a
significant impact on you.
A: My book is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman
is a Nobel Laureate and in this book looks at how we think, react and reach
conclusions – fascinating stuff.
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