Working Remotely: a Technologic Affair

rfts rsce entebbe united nations regional service centre entebbe brian cable yannick van winkel suha al-karram
30 Jul 2020

Working Remotely: a Technologic Affair

Yannick Van Winkel

While the Regional Service Centre Entebbe (RSCE) is going into its fourth consecutive month of the remote working arrangements, one might almost forget the huge technical efforts that are taking place behind the scenes. Getting more than 300 RSCE staff members to successfully set up a functional home office is not a one day’s job nor is it a simple affair. Brian Cable, Telecommunications Officer and FTS Operations Manager at Regional Field Technology Service (RFTS) and Suha Al-Karram, Information Systems Assistant and Supervisor of RTFS’ Regional Projects Management and Implementations Unit (RPMIU) explain how their pillar is making it all possible.

When asking Mr Cable about the most prominent things that RFTS has done for all RSCE staff while we perform our professional duties from the comfort of our living and study rooms, he answers clearly: “RFTS’ main endeavours regarding the remote working arrangements are the installation of additional PMPs (Point to Multi-Point communication) at the RSCE’s critical staff’s homes as well as provision and management of the data SIM-cards disseminated amongst all our staff as part of the Business Continuity Plan.

During these challenging COVID-19 times, RFTS operational staff managed to install an extra 45 PMP connections at our homes which brings the total number of PMP accessions for the RSCE to 85. Furthermore, 335 SIM cards were issued at the start of the national lockdown and the parallel RSCE homeworking arrangements. These PMPs and SIM cards are there to provide continuous internet access which is required to perform office work to all our colleagues.

On the challenges RFTS had to encounter over the last few months, Mr Cable informs us: “Next to the obvious health risk of our operational staff getting contaminated with the virus while being out and about to install those PMPs, we also came across some digital security and social issues. We have observed a significantly steep rise in attempts on phishing (= fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in electronic communication). The main advice I always give people when they receive a sketchy looking email is to not click on any of the hyperlinks and/or attachments within the message. Next to that, we have been working remotely for a while now. While the idea of not having to come to the office might sound alluring and appealing to some, I have noticed that most of our staff members find it demoralising to be at home day after day for months at a time. We now see the value of physically going to work and dealing with colleagues. Dealing with people in the flesh keeps up morale. Let’s hope we can return to the office soon, provided we can do so in safe circumstances.”

That’s only one side of the RFTS story. Next to the hard-needed assistance to RSCE colleagues at home in Entebbe, they do also aid UN staff members in the many client missions which the RSCE services. For instance, RFTS’ Regional Projects Management and Implementations Unit (RPMIU) has managed to continue most of its activities without any delays. In fact, some long-term pending projects are now in full implementation mode and all their projects are within 90% compliance of the previously planned timelines.

An example of one of these recent projects wrapped up successfully is the implementation of the situational awareness platform ‘Unite Aware’ in four peacekeeping missions: The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) as well as the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus.

Suha Al-Karram, Information Systems Assistant and Supervisor of the RPMIU, explains: “While the original plan was to hold an Entebbe-based implementation planning workshop during the month of April which representatives from the four peacekeeping missions would have attended, this was not possible anymore due to obvious pandemic reasons. Instead, the workshop was conducted remotely via the Microsoft Teams application. A whopping number of 31 remote meetings were finalised in order to complete the smooth operational launch of ‘Unite Aware’ in the four missions: 8 remote training sessions, 6 implementation planning pre-workshop sessions, 8 implementation workshop sessions and finally, 9 deep dive trainings. The implementation is now ongoing – remotely instead of on-site - and is expected to conclude by the end of March 2021 at the latest.”

RFTS and subsequent teams keep on assisting all colleagues – both at home at the RSCE as our colleagues from the client missions - with their technology needs while most staff continue their work from their own dwellings. Do not hesitate to get in touch with them if you have any IT related concerns, requests or questions. You can get in touch with RFTS through the Digital Solutions Centre (Helpdesk) or the RFTS Admin Office.