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How CIOs handle impact of Covid-19: From Data centre, banking, aviation to manufacturing [IV]

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Nixon mageka Gecheo
Nixon Gecheo

Covid-19 pandemic has really brought the issue of network agility to play and being nimble as well flexible both in private and public sectors cannot be over emphasised.

On the other hand, being able to predict the future as a CIO in terms of preparedness to even exceed the expectations as contained in an organization’s Business Continuity Plan (BCP) because a plus.

So, strategy, agile and of course being flexible and forward looking and forward-thinking, clearly defines the CIO of the future.

CIO MasterClass Africa

In continuation of TechEconomy.ng publications (series) on CIO Africa Leadership Series webinar hosted recently by CIO MasterClass Africa for Chief Information Officers (CIO) particularly in Africa with the theme – COVID – 19: “The CIO’s Leadership Moment” – Prospects, Challenges and its implication for the African Continent – with the general direction on “leadership, strategy and operational level”, looked at CIOs role in normal times vis – a – viz the new normal defined by COVID – 19, we are focusing on the public sector (Government.

Engr.Ifeanyi Ogochukwu

The Convener, CIO MasterClass Africa; Engr. Ifeanyi Frank Ogochukwu, a former CIO of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency and the Chief Technology Strategist for Debbie Mishael Consulting – an African premier consulting, implementation and training firm moderated this webinar.

The speaker-focus for today is Nixon Mageka Gecheo who is a member, Universal Service Advisory Council, Communication Authority of Kenya (Government & ICT4D Consultant).

Nixon had worked as the ICT and Media Advisor to the Cabinet Secretary of Agriculture in Kenya and he also works as a Lead Consultant with FAO developing National agriculture strategies for Benin Republic.

He’s done quite a lot in terms of IT, headship and so on. He was also once the Chief IT Officer for the commission on Administrative Justice also known as Ombudsman in Kenya.

So as an ICT for Development Consultant, looking at Africa and also as an Advisory Board member of the USPF in Kenya, and impact of the pandemic; in what ways do you think that commoditizing and democratization assets can be done to deepen the broadband penetration in Africa with examples if any, you know from Kenya and all of that?

Nixon speaks:

“Thank you very much. I think from the perspective of a regulator, an African regulator, one of the things that you will see as contained in ITU report; it has revealed that 3.6 billion people remained totally cut out of Internet. That is a huge number. That’s the number around world and in probably part of this 3.6 billion people majority of them are docile in Africa.

“Therefore, what Covid-19 has come to show us actually is that there is a lot of digital divide even in the world and in Africa. I know it is even much, much bigger and therefore it has been the focus of the Regulators around the world with the use of the Universal Service (Provision) Fund to see how to try and close this digital divide that we have seen. Having said that, I think priority really is that and putting Kenya’s example, priority has always been to look at how to use the fund (USF) as a smart subsidy to attract the Operators to go to areas which you know, ideally they will not go because of the economic issues around the areas.

“So, from the government side: it is to provide this USPF funds to see how to excite the operators to extend their network to areas where the network is not covered. However, you also realize and I think from Dr. Ayotunde Coker’s submissions, you’ll also realize that now the impact of Covid-19 has also meant that a lot of employees whether in public sector or private sector, are working from home. And that means that there is a lot of demand for broadband; there’s a lot of demand for network to be able to have sort of to continue that conversation.

Communication Authority of Kenya

Communication Authority of Kenya

“The rise in demand for technologies has really drawn the world into realizing need to scqle up infrastructure. When we met in South Africa for the AfricaCom, I was in a panel discussing the 4IR – 4th Industrial Revolution and to me I was looking at three five years for that 4IR solution to really come to Africa, but as you can see Covid-19 has already given us a taste of what that is involved in. You see people now working from home; people not being able to meet as usual and so that has really brought forward some of the realization of the fourth Industrial Revolution especially in Africa. But having said that I must credit operators.

“Talking about the situation in Kenya; for having been able to provide the necessary bandwidth at the time of peak traffic as people were taking up work from home and so forth, it shows a lot of resilience. From our perspective as the regulator, there are quite a number of things that we have done: one is with the understanding that they are so many students and pupils who have been affected by Covid-19 with the schools closed and people including the student being at home, that again means that even as those employees are using that broadband and working from home, there’s a lot of competition for this bundles of Broadband.

“Therefore, what we have put in place as a regulator is one: we’ve worked with the authority that is in charge of curriculum development and that is locally called the Kenyan Institute of Curriculum Development, to avail educational content to all the broadcast stations.

COVID-19

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak on a World Map on a digital LCD Display
Map source: https://www.nasa.gov /

As the regulator, we stepped in to say: Look every education content that is promoted by the Kenyan Institute of curriculum development must be carried by all broadcast stations. And that being said is because we are aware that, especially in the rural Africa rural Kenya, they are many people who may not have the internet to be able to have that provision for a conversation like what we having in our classroom. So many schools were affected by that. TV and FM radios which are vastly and widely used in Africa, they had to step in. We said, let the students who may not have Broadband on the internet in their areas also have this facility of either radio or TV to be able to enjoy just like the others who are in the cities.

…COVID-19 and Fake News 

“We also have realized that one of the most dangerous things during this Covid-19 is fake news.

“What we have done with the operators is to ask them to be able to use bulk SMS to now push the right information and thereby educate the public about covid-19 because they are so many fake news there and people will not know what to believe and what not to believe.

“In the same area, what we have asked even the people in charge of cyber security to actually note where this fake news come from; so through the national Kenya anti cybersecurity organization we look at and identify fake news pages and especially on coronavirus with the aim of sharing that with the law enforcement to address it.

“The other thing of course, we have done because of the issues around cybersecurity, is to converge around and see where are the attacks coming from and who are launching the attacks, so that we are able to protect the people who are using this facility to do their legitimate work or to do schooling.

“The other one, of course is because so many of our children now are going online tools and the danger with that is that we will need to sieve what they are actually looking at; the pages they are actually looking at, because some of them may be online, but they may be targets of cyber predators.

COVID-19

COVID-19 and new business culture – Image Credit: Anonymous

“So, to protect these vulnerable children what we have done is to work with other organizations and other actors around this to bridge some of these attacks that would be coming to the schools’ digital platforms.

“Honestly, there are many challenges around even for those working from home and I think somebody spoke to that.

“You know, even with individual organization as one of the panelists said; it is also to protect people who are using Zoom and all those other channels for video conferencing so that when you are discussing policies of companies you are protected. To manage meetings for companies then the CIO’s role is very critical; to look at who is joining the meeting.

…Need for supportive infrastructure in Africa 

“In terms of actual take up for mobile phones and mobile carrier you’ll see that Africa generally has the biggest numbers of mobile phone use in the world. Like I said earlier, the only danger there is that there is no supportive infrastructure around Africa. What so many regulators are working around is how to then populate that infrastructure to enable the uptake of more users having these gadgets and that also speaks to the fact that when you have infrastructure and the gadget then you are able to solve a lot of issues around.

Telecom equipment or mast

Telecommunications infrastructure

“The other thing we have done as the regulator, is also to organize Hackathon. We invited creators, innovators around covid-19 whether it be of Healthtech – in terms of Contact Trace Application or technology that drives personal hygiene; just to stop the spread of covid-19. So, we have different people who are coming up with different ways of developing things like water taps that people use to wash their hands and sort of things. So, we are trying to promote that and giving seed money to inventors who are coming up with the creative innovation around Covid-19 to be able to roll out and see how we help the population manage that kind of epidemic.

“Thank you very much”.

To be continued tomorrow, featuring the •  Group CIO, Flour Mills Nigeria Plc; Serge Yao.