Many South African technology companies are allowing their employees to work from home – where feasible – and encouraging them to make use of technology to avoid face-to-face meetings with colleagues and clients.
TechCentral polled a range of large companies in the sector to find out how they are responding to the novel coronavirus outbreak, which causes the Covid-19 illness. Most indicated their operations are largely unaffected beyond the work-from-home measures.
Mobile giant Vodacom, in a statement on the JSE’s stock exchange news service, said on Tuesday that its priority is the “health and safety of our employees while continuing to deliver services and support to our customers”.
“We continue to closely monitor the latest guidance from the World Health Organisation and national, regional and local health authorities and have well developed business continuity plans in place for dealing with such events. These include co-ordinated regional and international incident management, response strategies and the increased ability for Vodacom employees to work remotely without disruption,” it said.
“We have a dedicated team working to maintain the level of service our customers expect from us and have made available various digital offerings to assist enterprise clients. Our day-to-day operations will continue and should not be affected during this period,” Vodacom added.
It said it is ensuring it has “sufficient network capacity to enable people and businesses to seamlessly work from home as South Africa, and our other operations, are very dependent on mobile services due to limited fixed-line connectivity”.
“Given the fluidity of the situation, it is not possible to quantify with certainty the future impact Covid-19 may have on the business — both from an operational and financial perspective. Management is monitoring the situation and proactively dealing with the related challenges.”
It said that, so far, it hasn’t experienced significant supply disruptions but is monitoring the situation closely and putting the necessary measures in place to avoid disruptions. “We are confident that we have the right strategy in place and that we are well positioned to navigate through this period.”
Vodacom spokesman Byron Kennedy said the company is “reinforcing preventative measures with our employees regarding hand-washing, contact, and guidance on internal and external events including the option of virtual attendance”.
MTN South Africa said it’s taken a “series of precautionary measures to ensure the safety of its employees, customers and suppliers”.
Spokeswoman Jacqui O’Sullivan told TechCentral that the measures include the installation of thermal scanners at MTN offices as an early detection method. It has also introduced enhanced hygiene measures, including hand sanitisers, in all its offices.
From Monday, MTN implemented work-from-home measures for employees across the country.
“The work-from-home procedures may be rotational and, in some cases, skeleton staff will remain on site,” O’Sullivan said. “This includes staff that are required to be physically present. Where employees are unable to work from home because they are needed for operational purposes, those employees are to remain at work. By limiting the number of people in our buildings, we are helping to protect those who have to stay on site.
“The well-being of our employees, suppliers and customers remains our top priority. We have taken these steps as a concerted effort to do our part to contain the spread of the virus and ensure business continuity. Just as we test our emergency evacuation processes, we have been testing our work-from-home processes to ensure that various business units are well prepared to continue business even in the aftermath of an emergency.”
Pay-television broadcaster MultiChoice Group said it has “taken care to minimise the risk of impact to our people, business and the services we provide to our customers”.
“This includes all the recommended public health measures and work place arrangements,” a spokesman told TechCentral via e-mail.
“While we are grateful that we have not yet had a single incident within our organisation, we are working hard to ensure that we keep our employees, suppliers and customers as safe as we can. We are implementing the recommended measures to assess and minimise potential risk of transmission of the coronavirus in our facilities,” said MultiChoice South Africa CEO Mark Rayner in a statement posted on the company’s website on 11 March.
Listed IT group Altron has asked its employees to work from home and conduct meetings with customers, including colleagues, using technology, said CEO Mteto Nyati.
“In the course of business, we suggest customers use technology to enable them to work from home, and in this instance, we are doing the same. In addition to the statutory 30 days’ sick leave to which employees are entitled, we have provided 15 days of additional sick leave to cater for extended periods of self-isolation and quarantine,” Nyati said.
“We have a work-from-home policy, which is currently in full effect, and are now encouraging all employees to use technology to continue business. We are communicating the importance of taking precautionary measures, observing travel restrictions and modifying behaviours in social settings on a continuous basis.”
Telkom’s said its priority is the health and safety of its employees and ensuring it continues delivering seamless connectivity.
The company has limited non-essential travel, physical contact and gatherings; introduced screening at Telkom premises and testing for Telkom employees; and made early salary payments to enable preparedness for possible lockdown.
It has also zero-rated government websites that provide information on the coronavirus and zero-rated access to higher education websites to allow learning to continue online.
“As we implement ways to ensure social distancing in our environments, Telkom’s frontline operations remain stable. Call centres, data centres and fibre installations are being supported to protect the resilience of our network, and provide connectivity to our customers and South Africa,” the company said.
CEO Sipho Maseko said: “Our supply chain remains steady and our assessment does not indicate any business interruption in the short to medium term.”
Dimension Data said the health and well-being of its employees, clients and partners is of primary concern. Equally important is the emphasis on business continuity to ensure continuous service delivery to clients.
Its business continuity plans have been activated and it is implementing the following precautionary measures:
- Reducing the number of individuals present at its physical locations. “We are encouraging our employees to work from home on a rotational basis and are providing the appropriate collaboration technologies to support remote working instead of having face-to-face meetings with clients, partners, suppliers and colleagues.”
- All domestic and international business travel has been suspended for employees in the Middle East and Africa territories until further notice.
- All visitors to Dimension Data offices are required to sign a visitor’s log and adhere to the health and safety protocols in place at each site. “We discourage any non-essential visits.”
- Self-quarantining for a 14-day period if employees have recently travelled to an affected area for business or personally, and if they have been exposed to individuals who have recently returned from a high-risk country.
- Introducing compulsory temperature scanning at entrance points to its offices. “Should any individual have an elevated temperature of 38 deg C or above, they will unfortunately not be granted access and should seek medical advice.”
- Ensuring all surfaces in company-owned, leased and shared facilities are rigorously cleaned multiple times daily. “We encourage good personal hygiene practices including regular hand-washing, the use of hand sanitisers and social distancing.
- Hand sanitisers are available throughout the Dimension Data offices for daily use.
“The role of collaborative technologies is crucial at such a time to ensure our clients continue to operate their businesses and we are committed to delivering our clients’ technology needs promptly and efficiently.” — © 2020 NewsCentral Media