OP-ED – Mahday Saad Al Hebabi, Business Services Director, Vodafone Qatar
COVID-19 has presented a challenging situation for us all. Government, the private sector and academic institutions are having to make sure they put health and safety first and many have activated remote working and learning policies.
Vodafone Qatar has done the same, empowering our employees to work from the safety of their own homes as part of our business continuity planning. Communication and connectivity - especially now when virtual connections are taking the place of face-to-face dialogue - have never been more important.
I believe that the right technology and infrastructure will have a decisive role in ensuring business and academic continuity, helping Qatar to emerge even stronger after the coronavirus pandemic.
Many businesses have welcomed this chance to flex the backbone technologies they have in place, such as unified communications (UCs), virtual private networks (VPNs), Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and cloud capabilities, to enable remote working and studying.
Others may still need to catch up and equip their staff with the right devices to make collaboration easier, starting with laptops, tablets, and smartphones, headsets and webcams or built-in cameras and then set up their IT infrastructure to support it.
The challenge will be ensuring that all of these smart-working tools stand up to being tested at scale. With a prolonged interruption in operations being a real possibility across the globe, how can we achieve the same efficiencies and level of productivity?
My advice to business and academia is to consider a few key strategies to make their continuity planning more resilient:
- Prepare your networks for a large-scale remote workforce and new or much larger virtual classrooms. It is time to upgrade network capabilities and enable wireless connectivity with commercial grade network connections.
- Implement technology that enables remote collaboration between teams, or between teachers, lecturers and students. A cloud-hosting solution for all documents and files will allow your teams to access them from anywhere and provide for easy collaboration. Having a VPN system allows staff to link into the network securely.
- Secure both physical and network access points. A secure cloud storage for the most critical data is crucial, as is securing work devices with endpoint security controls such as firewalls, anti-virus and malware protection to safeguard against unwanted IT intrusions.
For our part, Vodafone Qatar is supporting our customers across all sectors to put the right technology in place. Vodafone IP-VPN lets workers connect to cloud apps via the office network, while our cloud services and co-location services offer the level of security they need. In turn, GigaHome and 5G MiFi hotspots lets individuals rely on our seamless connectivity to deliver on work and academic responsibilities in their homes.
Our technical and support teams will continue to work tirelessly to ensure our essential communications services are available to our customers so they can stay connected now when they need it most.
The coronavirus situation highlights the need to accelerate the development of technology infrastructure that supports alternative types of working and learning. We are confident that 5G for example, that we are rolling out across the country, will support newer, cutting-edge tools and capabilities that will enhance remote work and learning through virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.
The next few weeks will be a perfect test case for how we can continue expanding the country’s remote working/learning capabilities. The lessons will prepare us for a future where technology gives us fully evolved remote communications for work and study.