IT infrastructure for Angola’s rising oil and gas productionMarch 1, 2022
Msuega Tese, executive director of Integrated Solutions Angola (ISA), talks to The Energy Year about how hydrocarbons can help diversify Angola’s economy and IT challenges emerging with the rise in production. ISA provides IT infrastructure design, system integration, data storage services, virtual computing, cloud solutions and network and security services, as well as onsite support for offshore projects.
How should Angola harness its hydrocarbons potential to diversify its economy?
I think the dependency on oil and gas should be changed. If a whole economy goes up and down with a single product, it creates a huge challenge. We should take the lessons that are being learned in the energy sector and use them to try to fast-track other areas of the economy.
Instead of simply believing that the good days have come back and forgetting the bad days we’ve gone through, we should ensure that oil and gas now becomes the engine of growth for the entire economy. This is the stated objective of the government also. Other countries have been on this path, so it’s nothing new.
Investing in IT is also key. India has invested in the IT sector for years, and now IT is a huge part of its economy. If you look at the global economy, IT has replaced oil and gas as a driver of growth for many nations. Even in Africa, countries such as Rwanda, Kenya and Nigeria are making great progress.
Angola should use this period to invest heavily in education. This includes primary and secondary schooling and professional and on-the-job training. And for that, you need to look at the IT infrastructure. Now, you don’t need to have people teaching in person: with the right infrastructure you can get professors from all over the world, making a huge contribution to Angola’s educational system.
What main IT challenges could oil and gas companies face with the rise in production?
Based on the information we have from our clients, as production ramps up this year they will get out of maintenance mode and implement new IT projects. If the upstream activity increases, there will be more data. As most of the IT infrastructure is very old, there definitely has to be investment to sustain the growth.
From 2015 onwards there weren’t many changes, then Covid brought almost every development to a halt. With this new scenario the demand for innovations will be very high, and there’s no time to train people.
We focus on data storage, IT security and of course virtualisation, as well as cloud computing. However, we’re now more intentional in passing to our customers the knowledge we have gathered over the years in training. We have systems in place that they need.
We’ve been investing in fast-tracking training methods. It used to take us two years to get new engineers ready, that is, to be fully independent. Now we have reduced that to six months and even three months in exceptional cases. We combine technical, soft skills and leadership training to get our engineers fully trained.
What is the potential for ISA to expand into the training business?
The biggest challenge for companies operating here and around the world is getting trained manpower. It’s a pain point for many companies and I am happy to say that we have the solution, at least for IT professionals. Our leadership training has proven effective. The last public session in December 2021 attracted participants from countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and the UAE, apart from Angola.
Feedback from participants confirms what we intended: it was practical and easy to learn, remember and apply.
What impact has the ISO certification process had on the overall evolution of ISA?
Going through that process of ISO 9001:2015 certification instilled a lot of accountability within our system. Now, we don’t have to push for things from the top. There are checks and balances that have emerged because we have the processes in place. Even our performance appraisal system has experienced dramatic improvement. Each person is taking more ownership of their objectives and they do not need to be micromanaged. Self-appraisal is closer to reality than ever. In many cases, not much needed to be done by the supervisors because the self-appraisal is very accurate.
How did the pandemic affect the performance of Angolan companies?
The pandemic has been a huge challenge for many companies, including our own. With little revenue coming in, we needed to operate the IT infrastructure for people to be able to work remotely, which was a heavy burden.
We are fortunate that we survived and are doing well with all that happened. During 2021, we helped many of our clients in maintenance of their critical systems. So our maintenance services saw a kind of bump.
We didn’t do any staff reduction, and even hired a few new people. We are convinced that this kind of downturn won’t last long, and even if it does, we are in business for the long haul, not hiring and firing due to market fluctuations. Hard times are times that people need to keep their jobs, not to lose them.
We are totally transparent, and we sacrifice together and remain in business together. The determination of my team members gives me true motivation. Also, we don’t want to be rushing to find people when the curve starts going up. This period was even the best time to find the best candidates.