In March, my practicum in Zambia was moved to an online format. I was frustrated and disappointed because I had been so eager to go physically see oncological care in Sub-Saharan Africa. What I didn’t expect was to gain practical skills during such a hands-off internship. This summer I developed a digital dashboard system for a multidisciplinary team that had just transitioned to a virtual format as well. I was originally very frustrated with the world when my plans got altered to start remote work, instead of traveling, but I realized I was not the only one that was adjusting. To make their efforts more efficient in their new virtual state, and to address historical need for technology, I was employed to introduce a new way of communicating between the team, allowing them to share information at a moment’s notice. I soon realized that the whole world would be having to learn this, and use these skills for a bit longer than anticipated.

Through my efforts of developing the digital data management system, I have researched eHealth systems around the world, and I have seen how low and middle-income countries are focused on developing eHealth strategy documents. The purpose of these is to outline the need for building technological capacity and supporting tech education. It is a public statement to the world and the people that the country intends to step into the technological world. Recently Zambia started benefiting from a new undersea high speed internet cable that has now given the internet to millions of people. Much of the population is still rural, but the new connective cable allows Zambia to join countries like South Africa and Zimbabwe that are also connected.

A practicum like mine would not have been possible even a decade ago because of lack of internet, and the whole prospect of shifting the multidisciplinary team to virtual meetings would not have been possible without the development of software like Zoom that has become so prevalent during the pandemic. COVID-19 is waking the world up to the functional uses of the internet in professional settings. All those meetings that could have been emails are now emails, or virtual meetings. I wonder if the in-person meetings, or offices, will make a full recovery. Now looking for employment at the start of the Fall semester, many if not all opportunities are advertised as remote for the foreseeable future, and will probably transition to that mode from now on. Over the past three months, I have learned many things about the virtual world, but the most important, is that it is here to stay.

Katerina