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How zoom transformed communication, interaction in Nigeria

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Nigerian is a typical Third World country. While it has the unique positive characteristics that stands it out, its infrastructure deficit is so pronounced that it has become a source of national embarrassment. From poor roads to electricity deficit to telecommunication hiccups, the gaps have made efficiency a difficult goal for many Nigerians to accomplish in their various endeavours.

Before COVID-19 birthed in Nigeria, the typical corporate environment revolved around rushing to the office very early in the morning, holding a multitude of meetings in the course of the day, interacting with colleagues in the offices and canteens, and going home in the evening exhausted. As for conferences, they are held all-year-round. People travel from all parts of the country to attend those conferences, wherever is chosen as venues.

Take, for example, the annual conference of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) which usually holds late July to early August. Lagos is the usual venue, but oil industry workers, academics, students and journalists come from far and wide. From places such as Port Harcourt, Warri, Abuja, Maiduguri, Jos, Kano, etc.

Such conferences provide opportunities for peer reviews, catching up on new developments and building new professional relationships. Much of that usually impact positively on the career trajectory of those concerned.

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Now, things have changed dramatically. Meetings have been cancelled. Conferences have been postponed. Going to offices is now rationalised. Virtual meetings and conferences have become the order of the day. How did Nigeria get here? The fear of the coronavirus is the beginning of corporate wisdom.

Dr. Kingsley Turaki, a Transmission Consultant in the Telecommunication industry, enumerates many of the benefits of the new order. These, according to him, include “reduction in the number of times of going to the office, thus saving people a lot of stress in the traffic especially in a city like Lagos; reduces the cost of doing business and reduces people’s exposure to the inherent dangers of moving to and from one place to another.”

There is also a consensus amongst many of the people in the corporate world in Nigeria that the advent of the coronavirus pandemic has changed the face of business in the country. Even at the governmental level, the mode of engagement has changed. Several meetings of the Federal Executive Council headed by President Muhammadu Buhari have been held online since the restriction of movement occasioned by the pandemic.

More people have become more internet dependent than ever before; meetings are now held online more than ever before; even social and family meetings are now being held online. Not a few funeral services, birthday parties have been held online.

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A country whose people relishes social gatherings, Nigerians have become quite innovative in recent times. People worship at church services via Zoom, other online platforms and Television. Mr. Adewale Williams, an entrepreneur and media consultant has this to say about the Zoom revolution: “It’s all been positive. We have been able to increase meeting times contact clients, discuss issues, matters, projects easily … I had to register with Zoom for the 100 member meeting to increase our meeting times.”

On her part, Mrs. Roselyn Onalaja, Managing Partner, Stresert Services Limited, puts it this way: “Zoom has no doubt impacted my life in so many ways; in my personal life, business and community service. It has completely demystified the notion of ‘I have to see you to get things done’.
“Though the idea of working remotely isn’t new, it was more of an exception than the norm; adopted more as a last resort and not intentionally planned by organisations. The pandemic has changed everything and accelerated the move to ‘The Future of Work’

“During this pandemic, Zoom has come to the rescue and enhanced my interaction with family members through online interaction that has significantly reduced distance, executed community activities and used for various meetings.

“For business, focus is now more on results than availability. Virtual meetings and work sessions using Zoom is gradually reducing the need for physical office space. Virtual training programmes are now the norm and Zoom platform still makes it possible for the sessions to be engaging and interactive. In all these, productivity has remained high and objectives are being met.”

Dr. Abiodun Adeniyi, associate professor of Communication, BAZE University, Abuja, relates his own experience: “Zoom is one online platform for interaction, that has given me a unique opportunity for real time exchange of data, video and chats/thoughts. It helps me to eliminate distance in human relation, and prevents some losses in the face of the reduction of physical interface because of COVID-19.

“Zoom has supported my continuing educational and economic processes, helping teaching and learning, and some of my consultancies to continue, despite the reductions in face-to-face communication.”

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According to Dr. Adeniyi, Zoom also facilitates communication with many people “through its platform, in a webcast, typical of the internet network. It opens up extra spaces of meanings and possibilities for me, in what is useful for the sustenance of not only social construction, but also political engagements.”

He concludes by saying that “Zoom is one other means of showcasing the rising experience of virtualisation, implied in the imminent world of the internet of things, artificial intelligence, data sciences and augmented reality.”

The beautiful picture so far painted does not mean there have been no challenges. Many people have left virtual meetings frustrated, no thanks to the epileptic internet connectivity that is prevalent in many part of Nigeria. Internet service providers are however quick to remind Nigerians of the myriad of challenges they face operating in Nigeria.

But they do promise and inform users on “systems upgrade” frequently.
Welcome to the Zoom Revolution in Nigeria.

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