Humphrey Fellow ready to be an agent of change in the Central African Republic

Serge Adouaka-Ngoimale worked with Mason's J.P. Auffret to learn more about information and communication technology during his six-week stay at the university. Photo by Lathan Goumas.

The end of a six-year armed conflict between 14 groups in the Central African Republic means there will be plenty of opportunities for advances with information and communication technology (ICT), but new challenges, too.

Serge Adouaka-Ngoimale hopes to be ready for both after spending a little more than a year in the United States as a Humphrey Fellow, including a six-week stay at George Mason University to learn more about ICT for development and cybersecurity under the auspices of J. P. Auffret, the director of research partnerships in Mason’s School of Business and associate director of the Center for Assurance Research and Engineering in the Volgenau School of Engineering.

“Technology is everywhere in both the public and private sector,” said Adouaka-Ngoimale, who recently returned home, “but we need to know how to use it in a good way and educate people on how to use technology in a better way. It’s important for people to understand what’s in cyberspace and what cybersecurity is.”

Adouaka-Ngoimale was one of 150 Humphrey Fellows this year from 97 countries. The program, which is affiliated with the Fulbright Program through the U.S. State Department, provides months of study and professional affiliation for mid-career scholars and professionals from developing countries. Fellows are selected based on “potential for leadership and dedication to public service.”

Auffret said the year-long experience will help Adouaka-Ngoimale create positive change upon his return home.

“There’s a lot of potential with technology for contributing to economic development and society,” Auffret said. “And many insights to be gained in the U.S. and from talking to people about IT innovation, leadership and policy. That’s the point of the fellowship.”

Adouaka-Ngoimale, who spent four months at the University of Montana and 10 months at Syracuse University before his six-week stay at Mason, most recently managed the business continuity plan as the country security manager at Ecobank CAR. He has also led card operations, IT and infrastructure for the regional African bank.

Located in the heart of Africa, the Central African Republic is only now starting to fully enter the cyber age. Protecting critical infrastructure and maintaining data integrity will be critical as the nation continues to come of age following the end of the armed conflict.

Adouaka-Ngoimale worked specifically with Auffret on paths to help the Central African Republic forward with ICT that features the integration of telecommunications (telephone lines and wireless signals), computers and other ancillary systems in the hopes of providing more information and services to communities that have been typically overlooked.

Keeping those systems secure will be critical.

Adouaka-Ngoimale is the seventh Humphrey Fellow to work with Auffret, joining previous visitors from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Nigeria, Russia and Namibia.

Adouaka-Ngoimale said he welcomed the opportunity to be an agent of change for his people.

“I was very excited to learn more and bring it back home, train people and improve our workplace,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been given a chance for my country, for my people.”