The Eritrean Ministry of Information (MOI) is always busy. Many tasks are performed under its supervision. Journalists, technicians, cameramen, editors and about every other person walking through its gate is devoted to add pace to the information windmill.
The same applies to its branches in major cities and towns of the country. Q&A speaks today to one of the busiest men at the Eritrean Ministry of Information. Yohannes Haile, at age 27, is the System Administrator of the Ministry and he speaks today about IT at the Ministry.
- Thank you for your time. Let’s start with an introduction of yourself and what you do.
Hello, I am Yohannes Haile and I am MOI’s system administrator. I first joined the print media of the Ministry as a member of the layout team for Haddas Eritrea in 2011, where I served for two years. Back then the Ministry, especially the print media, as far as I know, was analog based. Later on, towards the end of 2012, when the Ministry was moving towards digitalization, I took part in a year-long extensive and intense training and courses of IT, networking and system administration organized by the Ministry itself. As the courses progressed I realized I was not only immersed in the whole learning process but I felt like I found something I could do for the rest of my life. While still in training I was moved from the layout team to the newspaper’s IT team. The good thing about learning while working is that whatever you learn you can directly apply at work and, therefore, have better comprehension of what you’re actually learning. And to my understanding, in Eritrea, a developing country, the course of learning is in many cases non-conventional. People, yes, they learn at school and then do internships and finally look for a job. Here, everyone is needed to contribute to the overall national development. Therefore, a lot of young people learn while working. It is a win-win case that saves a lot of time and makes learning more amusing and interesting. I say this because it is the learning and growing experience I cherish when I think of how I learned to love and understand my profession.
- I ask this because you were present at a time of transition in the Ministry, analog to digital. What was the transition like?
It was a step that had to be taken. The ministry is vast and performs several tasks. Eritrean News Agency and the four newspapers are under its supervision. There are TV and radio broadcasting services in various languages, a digital library, a website, archives, photograph department and the finance and administration offices. They are all run under the ministry. And, as one can tell easily, we are talking about an intense workflow. They all run in synergy. But for that to happen advancing from analog to digital was not only necessary but vital. That’s when I joined the ship. Can’t say much about how things were done pre that time but can definitely tell you how things are done now.
- What does your office do? What are your main tasks and how do you facilitate the “intense workflow” that you just talked about?
My office was created in late 2013 and we serve as the center of the whole flow. We oversee the Ministry’s datacenter as we manage a vast range of connectivity. Our main tasks are networking and server administration. All users at all departments and all servers are accordingly connected through a fiber network of 10GB per second. The connection traffic is very speedy. Our central management is Windows base as we use Windows active directory domain. The implementation started in 2013 with minimal size projects. Our first pilot project was run in the print media department. It was successful and soon after we advanced to the radio department. Then followed the remaining departments of the Ministry. It was certainly a massive implementation that guaranteed the facilitation of an efficient workflow. We first conducted a study on how to implement the system to make it better, easier and user-friendly. We had to study the nature of work of every department and its subdivisions. We had to know our users’ main tasks and what benefits and privileges they should be granted. And only after that would the technical part begin. I can say that now the Ministry has one of the biggest, perhaps the biggest, data center and server-based connectivity system in the country. We have collaborators in the country and outside and we also have recognized suppliers for our equipment.
- Was the transition late? Could it have happened earlier?
It could have. But it happened at the right time. We were absolutely not late. What is to be admired is the adaptation speed. All concerned professionals and users understand our system very clearly, and they adhere to the system administrator’s policies and benefit from an efficient workflow. At the end of the day we’re all working for the finished product. Every employee of each department has a final goal, whether it’s audio, visual or printed matter, which is to successfully and speedily put out information. Our office facilitates an affluent and secure platform for the raw material to be produced in news formats of all kinds. We furthermore provide configurations with the same aim for archives, digital library and finance and administration offices in and out of the ministry’s environs.
- Is there anything that your office needs to work on for further work implementation?
I have travelled and I have visited news agencies of neighboring countries and I can say that our system is up-to-date. We would definitely need more Internet connectivity. We also really need to work on expanding the circulation of our finished products on social media.
- And what plans do you have for the future?
Many. There are many things that we’re working on as the Ministry continues to grow and march toward digitalization. It is easy, the system leads you. Investments are being put in place for this to happen. Most of the analog data have been digitized and now what remains is keeping up to date. And that we’re doing relentlessly.
- Is there anything you’d like to say at the end?
Our office is devoted to responding to meet the requirements of every task carried out at the ministry. We work hard and nonstop for the flow to be smooth. The thing with IT is that you can never be lazy about it. Our office will always be of good use.
- Well thank you!