Companies not ready to work from home
By Dominic Omondi | March 19th 2020
Only less than a third of Kenyan companies have the infrastructure that enables their employees to work from home, official data shows.
This is likely to deal a blow to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s twin-goal of stemming the spread of coronavirus by encouraging more Kenyans to work from home while keeping the wheels of the economy turning.
Available statistics indicate that out of close to 19 million Kenyans actively engaged in some economic activity, only 4.5 million have access to a computer at home, making it difficult for companies to roll out a work-from-home programme.
A survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicates that while most Kenyans have access to Internet, most of them use it for entertainment. Very few use the internet for work-related activities.
Analysis of the official data by The Standard paints a picture of a business environment in which millions of firms, mostly the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), do not even have emails, websites or intra-net services which are critical for working remotely.
Majority of them have never even ever ordered goods online.
Only 40 per cent State corporations, where employees are also being encouraged to work from home, use cloud computing - the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage and process data.
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Microsoft has announced that it will make available its hub for teamwork in Office 365, Microsoft Teams, for free to the public to enable remote working.
Teams is a chat-based collaboration tool that provides global, remote, and dispersed teams with the ability to work together and share information via a common space. With this tool, users can utilise features such as document collaboration, one-on-one chat, team chat, and more.
“By making Teams available to as many people as possible, we hope that we can support public health and safety by making remote work even easier,” said Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365.
Stopping the virus
A number of companies have already notified their employees to start working from home to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The virus has followed the contours of globalisation - in cities such as Nairobi, which are intricately welded into the global economy.
Rural Kenya, and many other rural parts of Africa, which rely on farming, have so far not attracted the wrath of the virus, which has so far claimed more than 7,000 lives, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) data. The virus has spread faster in cities, with booming service industries such as banking and insurance, telecommunications, transport, trade, real estate and hospitality.
However, data shows that most of Kenyan firms in these industries, unlike their counterparts in other countries, will have difficulties making their staff to use ICT tools to work from home.
Available data shows that whereas the ICT sector in Kenya is highly developed, it is largely not used for work outside official working hours, but mostly for social purposes such as keeping in touch with friends and families.
Census data shows that out of the 19.6 million people that are engaged in some economic activities as at August 2019, only 9.8 million were using the internet, most of them from their mobile phones.
So far there have been seven confirmed coronavirus cases in Kenya, even as the disease continues to wreak havoc around the globe.
Other tools that make for a seamless work-from-home environment include a virtual private network (VPN).
A VPN extends a private network across a public network, and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network.
This is important if only for security reasons, given that only 36.6 per cent of enterprises have some ICT security policy. Other tools include instant messaging and video conferencing.
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