Beyond any reasonable doubt, COVID-19 came with several challenges – and opportunities too. Although most organisations in Africa, like elsewhere in the World, closed operations from their physical offices, many employees did not quite go on a lockdown as they took their jobs home and got their remote offices fully functional. Relating this to my personal experience as an IT professional in Nigeria, this meant that my work continued, especially in terms of technical support to clients and colleagues. Just that the mode of implementing it differed this time.
Phone calls, remote desktop connections and video calls worked the magic of connectivity. It was a new kettle of fish. Calls came daily from colleagues concerning IT issues they faced. It has so far partly felt like teaching DIY processes they would be able to implement on their own next time without requiring external support. With COVID-19, everyone has had to bring out their inner techie selves they probably never thought they had.
Cloud systems, remote desktop applications, Google apps (such as Drive, Sheets and Forms) as well as video conferencing apps like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype have become the real MVP of this period. But as with all things positive, there is a downside especially in a clime like ours. So, over the last number of weeks since I have been working from home, here are some of the challenges I have encountered and an idea of how I was able to resolve them.
1. Electricity: This is obviously the most predictable of the challenges as the power situation in Nigeria is known to all and sundry. Endless power outages caused unprecedented delays in my work. I however always kept my alternative source of power supply on standby.
2. Diagnosis and knowledge-sharing: As IT-related problems Understanding a problem is one thing, proffering a solution is another ball game. How do you address a situation when you are not sure of the problem? It was not funny at the onset, considering physical engagement to understand issues was the order of the day before now. But as I got more accustomed to this mode of work, all the pieces came together a lot faster.
3. Transportation: Sometimes, the intervention required to solve the challenges requires the movement of hardware. During the lockdown, transportation was a luxury and so moving computer hardware and other devices to those that needed them was a major challenge. Supply was delayed; it took so much time. However, with some unique “calculations” and by exploring alternative options like engaging other technical personnel closest to the individual concerned or asking the supplier to deliver and install for the concerned party, one got past the challenges.
Amid the challenges encountered, remote desktop connections were quite often able to substitute face-to-face access as I was able to easily connect to other computers, irrespective of my location or theirs.
Truth be told, the COVID-19 pandemic is a global emergency no nation, Nigeria especially, was prepared for. It would therefore be very important to put some measure in place after now to ensure nations, organisations and individuals are able to get work done from anywhere. Work shouldn’t be restricted to a building! Staff should be groomed on efficient remote working, flexible hours and problem-solving for emergencies. Thankfully, the company had just mainstreamed the working from home approach just before the lockdown. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
Overall, I’ll say my working experience during the COVID-19 has been good because of the many positive outcomes. More than all else, it provided copious opportunities to engage more with clients and staff – avenues to broaden exposure to some bit of technology they were not used to. It has also been an opportunity for a lot of personal improvements. Most importantly, for me, working from home has been cost-effective – producing good results without causing too much dent to the pocket.
Tanko Alhamdu is an Information Technology professional with SystemSpecs, where he provides technology support services to staff and clients, helping them maximise business potentials