Tico Minister of Science: Pandemic Is Also an Opportunity

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    For the Minister of Science, Technology and Telecommunications of Costa Rica, Paola Vega, the health crisis that has affected the world since the end of 2019 can be taken as an “opportunity to do engineering or a social experiment because it is a massive situation in which we had not faced before.”

    Like the rest of the planet, Costa Rica has had to adapt and reorganize itself this year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to the region, at the level of infrastructure and services, it has greater capacities than its Central American neighbors.

    “Costa Rica is the country that will suffer the most the effects of the pandemic in the region”

    However, in September the alert was lit due to the possibility of collapse of the health system as 65% of intensive care units were occupied. With an accumulated 146,421 infections and 1,825 deaths, Costa Rica is ranked 51st worldwide in terms of the impact of the Coronavirus on people, 12 in the American continent, 10 in Latin America and second in Central America, behind Panama.

    “This pandemic has set a challenge: we are talking about a virus that must be studied and better understood in order to learn all its effects and mechanisms by which it could be fought. That is what science is about, about discovery and understanding and putting it into practice. , which this time is a much accelerated mode due to the emergency in which COVID-19 put us, “the minister declared.

    The comment is valid both for research on finding vaccines in record time and for issues related to electronic commerce, distance education or telework. “Things that we had been thinking about and that stopped being a plan and once to the laboratory, put into practice,” she summarized.

    “Among them, the Government had already been working on teleworking, through pilot plans, some general regulations, but suddenly with the pandemic it put everything to the test at once by implementing it massively,” she added.

    Technology at the service of the population

    The Costa Rican minister told another example of how technology contributed to improving the State’s response to the pandemic from non-health aspects. She referred to the Bono Proteger, “a temporary economic aid to families in vulnerability that had to be implemented very quickly, generating a digital application system to request aid.”

    Vega said that due to the isolation and social distancing measures, people could not appear to deliver the documents required to be included. “In a couple of weeks the system was up (…) and it was possible to attend to many people in record time, some 300,000 requests.”

    “The pandemic totally changed the way we work and communicate, not only in education, at work, even in our relationships with our family and friends, things that were seen to come but that accelerated and intensified. It seems that it is an important opportunity to do engineering or social experiment because it is a massive situation that we had not faced before”, the minister reflected.

    For Vega, it is relevant to analyze what effects the measures that have been taken have “on people’s minds, on the way they relate to each other”, in order to take advantage of the positive factors and define how “during and after the pandemic the situation could be better managed”.

    Study plan

    In parallel, the Minister of Science, Technology and Telecommunications said that the moment is also propitious to promote the “responsible exercise of digital citizenship”, without this implying the “substitution of relationships between people. Not to promote individualism but opportunity to collectively build new things. ”

    From this perspective, she considered it relevant to promote “digital literacy” not only in her country but also at the regional level.

    “It is the great opportunity we have as a region to join forces. And just as we have a Latin American cultural base that allows us to have very good relations between countries, we can jointly build a digital culture so that our digital relations expand.

    In this sense, Costa Rica has already taken the first step by sending part of the Executive Power to the Legislative Assembly on an innovative proposal for all Latin America.

    The minister explained that “we put in the Assembly a bill to create the National Digital Literacy Program that is and has permanent financing, and allows us to build digital literacy through the public educational system for all generations of Costa Ricans and Latin America”.

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