In this interview with CHIMA AKWAJA, respected security expert and Chief Executive Officer, Halogen Group, Mr Wale Olaoye, speaks on the impact of Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) lockdown on the economy, what organisations should do to ensure business sustainability, cyber protection of corporate networks and rising deployment of remote surveillance technologies at business premises.
A lot of companies did not envision that the COVID-19 lockdown was going to last this long and some of their sites were not properly guarded. How has the lockdown opened the eyes of the corporates to the importance of digital technology and remote surveillance technologies specifically?
Discerning companies are now beginning to understand the positioning of a company like Halogen and what we did last year to the market, where we were clear to say, the world is coming to a phase where the place of work is changing, the place of how you look at your assets, in terms of people, in terms of tangible assets, physical assets, mobile assets, virtual assets, and static assets are now different.
That is why our business proposition is safety in an open world. With COVID-19 and the severe disruptions it has brought, the strategic significance of our mantra, implying an entirely new technology-intensive approach to security risk management is now becoming better appreciated among business leaders.
Our proposition for remote surveillance and monitoring centres around the intelligent deployment of connected devices on the back of Internet of Things (IoT), all integrated into a very huge command and control centre, where we also, have a built-in emergency response as part of a carefully mapped security risk management system.
Across economic sectors, government institutions and others, we are beginning to see more demands for this kind of service where automation, where less burden, integration of systems, and people are becoming the order.
We are just glad that we were blessed with the strategic foresight to think far ahead in tandem with the emergence of digital technology and virtual connectivity as the new central nexus defining life and everyday activities. We correctly judged, quite a few years back that this new openness of society, this all-encompassing digital connectivity that is transforming vital assets from the physical to the virtual demanded a radically new approach to security risk management beyond brick and mortar and base level physical guarding.
So, with our comprehensive digital reconfiguration and our operational transformation unveiled during our re-branding last year, we have been ready for this long before COVID-19 brought the economy to a new shocking reality about the centralness of technology and digital connectivity to the new world order.
What will you advise companies in terms of business sustainability and security risk strategy post-COVID-19?
I recognize the fact that every organization must consider how to remain afloat and ensure survival and sustainability post-COVID-19. Any serious organization must also consider that people are the heart of the business. For us, we have put out there the business sustainability assessment framework for assessing the strategic preparedness of businesses from a security risk sustainability point of view.
Also, to ensure that people who come to your organization- your staff, customers, suppliers- are protected and are safe, there should be policies to mitigate risks of a contagious infection, implement COVID-19 safety protocols such as washing of hands, temperature checks, social distancing and use of facilities (including lifts and doors) and crowd control.
That is why the Halogen business sustainability framework speaks to six clear areas namely: regulation, best compliance, safety, facility adjustment, security risk management, and policy framework. We have designed a massive framework based on best practice that will stand anywhere in the world, which will essentially help organizations to do business readiness assessment. This framework is very robust and will help organizations and governments to situate various circumstances around the key questions of business readiness assessment.
This framework will enable them to understand what the new imperatives are and how to achieve a return to work in a way that will be compliant with public safety. In the past, discerning business leaders adopted security risk strategies that incorporated health, safety and environment (HSE) requirements. At Halogen, we have now developed a concept we refer to as HSE & C, the C emphasizing and incorporating a new core imperative of COVID-19 compliance.
This is a new assessment framework that we have tested against international standards and global best practices to help organizations test their readiness to return to work. To resume business on a sound footing, this is required. As you can see even other countries are beginning to ponder on what is the best acceptable means of returning to work for different sectors. This has to be done for a country such as ours. We have this framework already built for the different industry sectors.
Since the lockdown began, we’ve seen increase in cyberattacks and hacks into networks of corporate organisations and government agencies all over the world. How can we ensure that our virtual assets are protected from such attacks?
Concerning the protection of virtual assets on the back of network systems, devices and data centres, now we’ve seen an upsurge demand for more deliberate security risk management solutions such that people are beginning to understand that even small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are now beginning to see the essence and importance of a new digitally compliant approach to security.
I give you an instance. We have three of our clients that came and said during the period that there were clear attempts at hacking their systems. What many of them don’t realise is the demand for even mobile-enabled protection, that is the high priority matter of safety while human and physical assets are in motion.
Halogen has a company which has begun to develop our consumer-based mobile-enabled protection with the careful harnessing of local talents. We have seen that customized digital technology can be entirely homegrown. What is also becoming clear to us at Halogen is that apart from contact level security solutions to large scale enterprises and public institutions, these enterprise protection solutions encompassing cyber-security, networks and data protection and remote surveillance enabled by digitally connected devices are also required among small and mediumsized businesses.
With this new normal, can you say that the era of digitally connected surveillance and remote monitoring has come to stay?
The reality is that our world as we know pre-COVID-19 has changed. Look at the aviation sector that has been so negatively impacted while the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. Aviation being so central to modern life and to business, it cannot die, it will certainly come back. But it can no longer remain the same because of the social distancing that will become a part of our lives. Many people will also begin to understand the risk of ‘physicalness’ where people are.
So, we are going to see a more deliberate combination of bodies and machines and technology. For instance, most of Nigerian students are beginning to come to terms with learning management systems (LMS) that is, technology driven education business instead of face to face classroom learning. So, we now have fewer bodies and more technology.
That is the new domain that is the new reality. So, obviously, the place of people, technology and devices are being reconfigured in favour of technology riven business processes becoming the new normal. As we predicted, the economy will begin to see a gradual shift in the combination; a shift in bodies and technology interaction to manage, not just physical risk anymore, not just virtual risk anymore, but health security as well. And just as food security has always come to the fore, so also, health as a factor of security has grown in importance.
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