Information Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the pillars of operations in humanitarian organizations in this modern era. Just like any other support service department, ICT contributes a lot starting from project proposals writing up to the implementation part of it. When we say that ICT is a “Pillar” meaning that we always need IT resources to be available in order to give support to other pillars and keep the organization on its feet, so that it can achieve the vision and mission for which it exists.
As all of us know that technology in particular ICT, has changed the way we work. Computers, printers, scanners, tablets, Internet, smart phones, radios, satellite phones, GPS trackers and other IT accessories are nowadays needed more than before in humanitarian organizations. Computers have reduced the burden of doing too much paperwork such as project proposals and reports writing. Due to the presence of Internet, we can now communicate and exchange messages (emails) electronically from anywhere on earth and at any time since Internet does not go to sleep. We have also observed that when there is Internet in the office or once the internet goes off, no work will be done. Everyone will be waiting for the Internet to come back and resume work. Some people will either go out to town or just take a break and wait until Internet comes back. They cannot not do anything even if it means to wait for 4 hours. This change of altitude and behavior regarding Internet is phenomenal. It shows that our lives are slowly becoming dependable on ICT.
The accounting and finance unit has financial systems such as Quick books, Microsoft dynamics, Sun Systems, Microsoft excel sheets which makes it easy and fast to manage the day-to-day finances of the organization. The human resource unit can have online payroll and benefit management system that can be used for managing the payments and benefits of all staff with minimal errors. We can also use smart phones and tablets in data collection during surveys, monitoring and evaluation of the various projects.
In South Sudan, the security situation is not stable and satellite phones, radios and GPS trackers can be used for communications in remote areas where there are no mobile telecommunication services. Databases are used to store and keep documents and files safe which can also be accessed from anywhere and at any time as long as you are connected to the internet. We also now have online storage systems such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and other network storage systems which can be used for keeping our files and we can access them from anywhere not necessarily from within the office. Theses online storage systems can also act as our backups should anything like natural calamities strike, we shall still recover our official or personal files from the systems. With COVID 19 pandemic where social and physical distancing must be observed as SOPs, resulted in people attending meetings and trainings virtually and online. This forced IT staff to train and orient people on meeting platforms such as Microsoft teams, ZOOM, WebEx, Google Meetings and other virtual meeting platforms. These developments and others in IT have really impacted our lives and work ethics.
As precaution the IT staff must have hand sanitizers on their desk. After working on a machine of client, sanitize your hands. This is because IT staff are just like the frontline health workers who need to be very cautious about their work environment and observe all the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as laid down by WHO and the Ministry of Health. Touching and working on many computers or printers without a protective gear is dangerous since the Coronavirus may be found on any of the surfaces of the machines you are working on. Therefore, it is very important to safeguard themselves and sanitize and wear face masks every time they work on a computer, printer, scanner or any other IT gadget given to them by their staff or when discussing IT related issues with other staff.
Organizations that do not have IT staff can just go and search on Google for “user guide for Zoom or Microsoft team meetings” and they download the guides for their consumptions. The guides are usually user-friendly and easy to follow. This COVID 19 pandemic also calls for more reading and research work. Some of the user guidelines really require us to read a lot as if we are reading for final exams.
In addition, the modern technologies are always expensive and not easy to acquire or maintain in the long run. But that should not discourage us from leveraging them since they bring better things in our lives as humans. Always remember that “The IT Technologies are created by humans, for humans”
Organizations without ICT resources or capabilities are like “a horse without a wagon” that cannot carry much goods. Other sectors such as agriculture, education, medicine, engineering and others are already investing massively and making us of ICT. Many countries in the western world have made it through the support of ICT.
Globally, humanitarian organizations that have always budgeted and invested in ICT have leapfrogged in their development activities and have achieved their goals. For example, humanitarian organizations working in countries that have been ravaged by civil wars such as South Sudan, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Mali, Nigeria, Libya, DR Congo have invested heavily in ICT. This is because the needs for ICT is even much higher than in countries that are peaceful and stable. As result the organizations are able to provide support to the vulnerable communities and give them life-saving stuff. Without the support of ICT, the humanitarian organizations will not provide support to the vulnerable and impoverished communities. In areas with insecurity, ICT stands tall in supporting all operations.
We have also seen that some organizations fully integrate ICT in their programming and allocate the budget for IT functions. There are those ones that ignore the contributions of ICT and do not allocate anything to the department and that leaves the IT personnel to suffer and not performing to their best because when IT requisitions are made, there is no response from the budget/project manager and this consequently affects the work of ICT unit.