Tobechukwu Okigbo, Chief Corporate Services Officer (Q and A with Business Day)
Is the pandemic having any effect on telecoms services generally?
Currently, we can assure you that our network is fully operational. Over the years, we invested significantly in a robust network and have multiple layers of redundancy built-in. We understand the vital role our network and services play in supporting people, organizations, and institutions nationwide.
The government realizes the critical nature of the services we and our colleagues provide and is doing everything to ensure services are not interrupted.
How far is the compliance from MTN on the sit-at-home policy?Working from home has not been easy, but our people have been very compliant. Largely because we have a common understanding of the threat posed by this virus, and how our choices will impact the most vulnerable in our communities. It has taken a lot of discipline, but virtually all our staff have been working from home – we call it telecommuting. A few critical staff that need to be on-site have been operating reduced hours, and we have taken considerable measures to protect them.
Are there things MTN as an organization is doing to fight the virus?
Yes. As previously communicated, in addition to fully complying with the ‘stay-at-home’ order, we have also been operating reduced hours at our stores, have introduced stricter hygiene and social distancing measures.
In the past month, we have implemented precautionary measures in our facilities nationwide, suspended all non-critical business meetings, travel and events and activated travel-related self-isolation protocols. We have also complemented the government’s sensitization drive, introduced rigorous cleaning measures and equipped team members with additional sanitation and safety products.
Like other competitions, is there anything MTN is doing to support state or Federal governments to curb the pandemic?
Absolutely, we are providing support already in a number of ways at both Federal and State levels and we are in conversations to expand support significantly as the situation evolves.
One example is our work with the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) which is enabling it to scale up its real time surveillance of COVID 19 cases. Our support includes:
With these resources, the NCDC will be able to roll out an Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System which will enhance the capacity of each state to strengthen preparedness and respond appropriately. Giving the NCDC the resources to track and monitor cases is one of the most important mechanisms we have to prevent the spread of COVID and prevent a wider problem developing.
We have also engaged with a wider group of stakeholders, including the Governors Forum, the Ministry of Health and Lagos State and made commitments to provide similar support, the details of which we will provide once the arrangements are concluded. Our agent network subsidiary Y’ello Digital Financial Services have also provided support, by removing fees from all money transfers during this period, something which we know is really important for people who will be unable to use banking services.
We are absolutely focused on finding new ways to leverage our core expertise, technology and infrastructure to support the government’s efforts to keep citizens safe and to aggressively increasing the level of support that we can provide. You can expect to hear more from us over the coming week.
The sit-at-home policy, how will telecoms services cope with the surge in Internet traffic, and the likes?
A surge in traffic would align with trends we’ve seen globally. Fortunately, we have multiple layers of redundancy built into our networks and some headroom. The challenge is not knowing the extent or duration of the lockdown and while our infrastructure has enough capacity to deal with the uptick in demand for now, if the situation persists, it might lead to resource constraints.
However, at the policy and regulatory level, conversations are ongoing with regards to what more the industry can do. For instance, the NCC has already approved the sharing of resources between operators if and when necessary. We are optimistic that further conversations will drive an expansion of this approach to include other assets, allowing us to optimize the use of critical resources. This is a crucial element to managing whatever lies ahead.
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