My year 2020 in review – my 8 TECH aways from COVID19
Updated: Jan 11
Like everyone else, I took some time off at the end of 2020 to look back and take time to think about COVID19 and how it changed the way I worked and I lived most of 2020. Yet, I know that this is still too new, too fresh, and lots of lessons still need to be learnt.
COVID19 was so disruptive, leading to radical changes and deeply affecting our societies and our ways of living and working. At the same time, I never saw such a wave of innovation – COVID19 obliged us to be innovative to survive (physically, mentally) and to continue working and serving an increasing number of vulnerable men, women and children around the globe.
I am sharing with you my 8 key TECH aways from my COVID19 experience in the field.
1. Key TECH away #1: avoid the "100% remote work" mode
Home office - My colleague's desk - Mali, March 2020
Since march 2020, I am sure that everybody had to say or heard at least once a day ““sorry I have a call in 5 minutes”.
I have now my own desk at home and I am a professional in the use of Zoom, Teams, CISCO Webex, Skype, Google meet and other tools developed for web conferencing.
I know how to generate and share an invitation link, I think of muting my micro (but still forget sometimes to unmute), I master the use of the chat room and I know where to find my favorite smileys.
Video conferencing definitely made me save time and energy because:
- colleagues and people can be very demanding in personal energy in a “normal” working day at the office
- and external meetings include transportation and are highly time consuming
Switching the cam on became easier and it helped me staying connected with my colleagues and partners even if it doesn’t replace the social chemistry generated when you work face-to-face with your colleagues.
However, the extreme use of these tools combined with a jump in the number of emails received everyday (it doubled!) to compensate the lack of physical presence and to prove that I’m working (and not taking a nap) was exhausting. It happened some days I had to sit for nine hours non stop in front of my laptop and managing my emails and calls… .
For 2021: I decide to keep a mix of virtual meetings and physical presence at work (with my mask)
2. Key TECH away #2: Broaden your horizons and access global events worldwide!
Source: "Humanitarian Clusterposting" group- Facebook
No more dependency on my supervisor’s authorization to travel and attend an international meeting, which is usually refused with the eternal excuse that “I am working on an emergency and I CANNOT take time to travel and get trained, my absence could jeopardize the whole operation” or “ I am sorry, our financial resources are limited”.
With the cancellation of all the face-to-face events, I could attend virtual meetings, conference, workshops, webinars all around the world!
I finally had the chance to have access to high level and strategic events, which were before only accessible by high ranked, senior and VIP staff.
The cherry on the cake: if you are not available at the right moment, you can still watch the video of the recorded event!
For 2021: please nice organizers around the world, keep the virtual solution available and add translation options to give access to me and to all my colleagues in the field to global events!
3. Key TECH away #3: Change the learning experience
I don’t know if I am the only one but I changed the way I was learning in 2020.
I decided to learn MORE because I was afraid to become obsolete in the post-COVID19 post-apocalyptic world and I realized the online training was the only option offered to me in 2020.
I looked for MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and webplatforms and enrolled in several courses I was interested in (and it was not only about humanitarianism and technology): Coursera, WFP and FAO elearning platforms etc. The offer is huge and you can definitely increase your knowledge and improve your skills with e-learning courses.I wrote a post on this topic.
And finally, I started listening audio podcasts on different platforms: soundcloud, apple podcast etc. This is a very interesting and different way of learning, I found specific podcasts about humanitarian issues and technologies in our sector (see on my page for more details). The french offer in audio podcasts is still limited compare to english speaking podcasts but who knows, this will change in 2021.
For 2021: my only questions will be “what courses will I enroll in 2021?” and “what about launching podcast series this year”?
4. Key TECH away #4: increase communication with communities and accountability to affected population
COVID19 obliged us to communicate more and differently with the affected population, finding new channels to inform them about COVID19, official preventive measures and , the new ways of implementing our interventions and giving them more voice.
It was great
- to work more with communication colleagues (in my case),
- to develop new partnerships with national and local radios, private call centers and media companies
- to strengthen hotline system and referring to the Ministry of Health’s hotline,
- to review introduction of all the surveys and include information about COVID19
I also realized that before COVID19, channels of communication with communities and affected population were very limited and underused, focusing mainly on face-to-face and one-way communication. There is definitely a big room of improvement in the way we interact, communicate, inform and give voice to the people we are serving.
2021: let’s continue to focus our energies on two-way communication with communities and affected population!
5. Key TECH away #5: focus on human centered design
With hard limitations of travelling and working in the field, I found very interesting innovations that put vulnerable people at the center of programme and make them actors of their own development (and not only passive recipients).
I detailed in a precedent post the possibility to collect remotely data and carry out vulnerability assessment and being able to hear the voice of thousands of households, traders, health workers etc. to design the appropriate interventions and messages.
Source: Market survey - Mali, April 2020- NRC
I also really like this example of innovative project in the nutrition sector: mothers were trained to take upper arm circumference of their children - instead of health workers - and monitor by themselves the nutritional situation of their own children.
2021: keep going, human first!
6. Key TECH away #6: support high tech and local innovations and new partnerships
Source: Automatic hand washing machine - local production-Mali
Innovation in response to COVID19's big challenges exploded and you can find thousands of examples all around the world!
Innovation was very rich in the health sector which also promotes innovative partnerships and approaches to find local solutions in ICT, 3D printing and robotic fields such as: mobile application for COVID19 cases identification and tracking or to be informed about COVID19, 3D printing of masks, automatic hand washing machines, chatbot whatsapp etc.
I also would like to mention all the efforts and innovations in the education sector – very close to my heart also because I am a parent- to allow children to continue having access to school especially in low tech contexts thanks to local and adapted solutions. I am sharing this great and inspiring example from Mali where school continues at home thanks to a partnership with a national radio broadcasting everyday school lessons.
2021: this is just the beginning, let’s invent and innovate, promote partnerships and local innovators!
7. Key TECH away #7: promote collaborative approach
Well well well, we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to collaboration!!
I worked with the Government, UN agencies, NGOs and the private sector to improve the data collection system during the COVID19 to understand the impact of the pandemic on livelihoods and vulnerabilities. BUT other actors (despite meeting some of them) organized their own data collection system with the same datasets to collect in the field. This is a shame - these resources could have been used where they were the most needed.
UNAIDs supported a COVID19 innovation map with startupBlink aiming at identifying all the innovations in the health sector – you can find 1089 innovations, which is great BUT majority are based in US and in Europe despite I know that lots of innovations were developed in the “global south”. You can find lots of other resources, scattered on the net about innovative solutions such as the ones developed by the public sector in the OECD, by WHO or other UN agencies.
2021: A big big work to do to identify, list and share the COVID19 related innovations, especially from the “global south"and work altogether.
8. Key TECH away #8: innovate in your personal life
Source: "Humanitarian Clusterposting" group- Facebook
I had also to think about my personal life: COVID19 completely disrupted humanitarian business model for international and delocalized staff and increased dramatically the workload preventing all of us to live a normal (family) life.
Not being able to travel and coming back home and not knowing when you can see your family, friends even children was very disruptive -even destructive for some of us.
Nothing could replace your family and the closest ones, even if you are using jitsi or hangouts, facetime or spike!
What about another way of working? Narrowing the distances between your working place and your home base? Asking for more home base or part time jobs? Asking for a better management of stress, burnout and heavy workload? Or a more radical solutions, doing another job?
2021: I’m starting a new job in the ICT4D sector, gaining more flexibility to travel to see my family and friends, and saving quality time for my two kids
What about you? What are your key TECH aways? What COVID innovations stroke you in 2020? Share!
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