MITA and the COVID-19

by | Apr 2, 2020

 

Written by Ian Bonello and Katia Bonello

Our priority is to safeguard the Government’s Critical Operations whilst working with the highest efficiency in this current situation.

Across it’s different departments MITA have multiple teams that offer service directly to the client.  These services include Call Centre Services, Desktop installation and support services, Email Services, Network Operations Centre, Change and Configuration Management and also the support of other backend systems which are used ensure operational automation. 

Whilst monitoring COVID-19 situation, MITA had already anticipated that its employees and most government departments would be remote working and hence a number of simulations were made.  Since the year 2001, MITA has adopted the use of teleworking.  This included having the appropriate technology and backing to enable remote working.  A few years back MITA had also started allocating all its employee’s laptops that allowed hot desking whilst employees were working across the various MITA offices. Moreover, it recently implemented unlimited mobile services both from a voice and a data perspective. In addition to this, during the last year, MITA has adopted the use of Microsoft Teams as a collaboration tool.

The Agency carried out an assessment to ensure that its infrastructure and ancillary support services were in place, to be able to offer all Government employees the facility to work remote working.  Another related assessment was carried out to see that MITA could provide its services remotely with no impact to the client. 

Network Operation Centre

Gozitans Working at MITA

Over the years, particularly during the last few years, the number of Gozitan employees across the Agency kept increasing and so MITA decided to set up an office in Gozo.  Today MITA has more than 20 Gozitan employees working from Gozo. The Agency has decided that due the COVID-19 situation all Gozitans are to work from Gozo eliminating all the travelling between Malta and Gozo. These employees can work directly from our Gozo premises or even from their home in Gozo.

MITA Call Centre

With the arrival of COVID-19, the Service Management Department kicked off a number of simulation exercises to allow more employees to work from home. The initial implementation was to allow a few different members from each team to work from home, thus proving that their duties can be done seamlessly from home. This training allowed the Agency that more than 20 Call Centre agents were able to work completely from home. This simulation was one of the first simulations that helped build a very high level of confidence in remote working. It was indeed not a usual scenario to see monitors reporting that calls were being processed with an empty Centre office and a silence that was usually interrupted by a number of ringing phones.

During this period, the MITA Call Centre was experiencing the highest number of calls due to government employees shifting their operations to home.  Such operations required users to configure their workstations to connect to the Malta Government Network through MITA’s Secure VPN Service. 

Desktop Support

Remote working was possible immediately in a number of teams responsible for the Government Email Infrastructure, Change and Configuration Management, and the backend support team who is responsible for the various tools that bring about operational efficiency within operations.

With the Desktop Support area, MITA configured secure equipment to augment the use of remote support for all remote workers through VPN. 

Network Operation Centre

The Networks Operations Centre is one of our critical operation area and required a permanent presence at the office.  This team deals with the Data Centre and an element of physical presence is always required to load backup tapes, physically relocating equipment from one part of the Data Center to another and other duties.  However, the Agency took action to reduce the number of NOC personnel at the office using also some remote working where possible.

Once work shifted from home, a strict schedule of team meetings was set up to ensure the smooth flow of operations.  Team Leaders and Managers met every day to discuss operations, reports and review outcomes.  Clear goals were set up and detailed reports of the work output were reviewed and assessed daily.  The meetings also had the purpose of keeping close contact.  One to one meetings were scheduled with each employee to address any work-related or personal matters that may arise.

Security Operations

The Information Security & Governance Department is ensuring the smooth execution of security related tasks to help other Departments with the surge of requests, particularly related to remote working. This sudden increase was addressed by streamlining an agreed vetting mechanism to cater for specific requests so these can be fast-tracked and approved in the shortest time possible, whilst keeping in line with established security governance policies. The Department also undertook remote working simulation exercises before the Government preventive measures were announced. These spanned the whole Department where meetings were held virtually and day-to-day tasks were executed using secure software. This placed the Department in an advantageous position and was better prepared should remote working be required on the staff. In fact, on the third week of March, the majority of the Department was operating remotely.

A further measure undertaken by the Department relates to security monitoring. In fact, the Security Operations Centre extended its operational hours, covering also the weekends and public holidays, given the delicate time and rapid change of the modus operandi that the Public Sector is currently undertaking. Special attention is being dedicated to Mater Dei Hospital digital landscape to ensure it’s continuous operation to serve the general public.

Towards its commitment to ensure cybersecurity hygene and principles across Malta, specifically the Public Sector, the Information Security and Governance Department is constantly adapting to the national situation. In extraordinary times like these, we will remain more vigilant and at the disposal of the Maltese Government.

COVID-19 has brought about adopting new work practices that, in the past, were thought to be impractical and antisocial.  Whilst technology has made this much easier, working from home has brought about a number of advantages that were probably never appreciated enough.  It is a fact that there are fewer interruptions and specific types of work where focus is required can be carried out more efficiently.  Other advantages include less travelling time and less pollution to the planet.  It is important, however, that regular ‘face to face’ Video Conference meetings are held with all employees so that none feel abandoned.  Whether these advantages are sustainable for a long period is yet to be seen, however, the facts show that operations are working smoothly and the overall feeling is that MITA operations has adapted extremely well to the COVID-19 situation in record time.

 

 Our priority is to safeguard the Government’s Critical Operations whilst working with the highest efficiency in this current situation.

Network Operation Centre
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