With the advancement of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distance and isolation, teleworking has become the way to maintain the development of BIREME’s activities, and especially with the support of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) that also require Information Technology (IT) infrastructure and continued support and guidance to its employees and users. Effectiveness in the IT functioning is essential so that the 38 (thirty-eight) employees of BIREME/PAHO/WHO can dedicate themselves to their functions with the support they had when working in person.
Teleworking creates a series of new challenges. Several simple ideas can make work less tiring and more enjoyable. Several tools that enable conversations, meetings and even events are being used and improved. In addition, office tools such as text editors and spreadsheets can also be used in the cloud, meaning that no very sophisticated equipment is needed for the user to be able to develop their activities even when they are in a residential environment. You just need an Internet connection.
BIREME, in coordination with the recommendations of the Information Technology Services Department (ITS) from the Executive Management of Administration of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) has being providing support in the development of capacities for the use of ICTs for the activities of the entire team of the Center that acts globally, regionally and locally.
Corporate tools are used for virtual meetings: Cisco Webex, MS-Skype for Business and MS-Teams. The use of MS-Teams is growing day by day, since it also allows the invitation to external users and has new features being constantly included as the possibility of changing the screen background and the option to “raise your hand” when you want to speak. BIREME employees participate in more than 25 (twenty-five) virtual institutional meetings with the participation of the Director, Managers, Supervisors and Technical Personnel with the different administration and technical areas of PAHO/WHO.
In addition, the use of the Outlook Agenda shows the number of meetings both internally for monitoring and directing teams and developments, as well as with external participants, for follow-up on technical cooperation projects and for internal strategic meetings and with counterparts. Since the beginning of teleworking, it can be identified that every business day has at least two virtual meetings by management and direction, in addition to events that bring together all employees, such as the Café com Ideias (which happens once a month) and, more recently, the High Performance Teams event, which was divided into working groups simultaneously using 4 (four) separate virtual environments in addition to the initial and final virtual room where everyone participated.
BIREME/PAHO/WHO has an IT infrastructure that meets the demands of technical cooperation by making available a set of servers installed in a datacenter a few kilometers from its physical facilities and with direct access to the international Internet via the Academic Network at São Paulo (ANSP). There are about 300 technical cooperation instances hosted on these servers and which have an internal and external monitoring system, in order to ensure their high availability. In addition, the backup system is periodically reviewed and improved, helping to minimize impacts in the event of incidents. Another important point is information security and, in this context, BIREME/PAHO/WHO has been developing a set of good practices to guide the implementation and updating of the systems used in technical cooperation.
In this sense also, the BIREME/PAHO/WHO IT infrastructure team reinforced instructions for remote access to technical cooperation servers, to request support and shared good practices with equipment (corporate and personal) that also impact personal well-being. Communication is permanent, facilitating the development of technical cooperation activities.
The IT infrastructure must support access and maintenance of the servers related to the developments, such as the Regional Portal of the Virtual Health Library (VHL), which allows access to integrated search in the databases, in addition to having links to access the others VHL information source portals and the VHL-associated networks. It had around 2.3 million pageviews in the period from January to May 2020, meaning a 21% growth compared to the same period in 2019.
Another portal that also showed significant growth compared to the same period in 2019 was the VHL Primary Health Care whose average monthly pageviews in 2020 is 1.5 million, equivalent to an increase of 377%.
In the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Window of Knowledge focusing on COVID-19 had more than 200 thousand accesses since its launch and the articles on COVID-19 in the BIREME Bulletin continue to be accessed registering more than 2500 accesses to date.
The IT Infrastructure (ITI) area continues to improve the use of current technologies, such as server virtualization to better meet the demands of BIREME/PAHO/WHO technical cooperation areas. Security systems as well as backup systems are continually being monitored and improved in a manner compatible with international standards and in order to guarantee the security and integrity of the information stored on BIREME’s servers and made available through the Internet.
On May 17th, 2020, the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day was celebrated, an occasion to reflect on the importance of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), which now connect even billions of people worldwide, allowing individuals to exercise their distinct roles in society, whether as family members, students and professionals, allowing the COVID-19 pandemic challenge to be overcome, the authors of this text mentioned, referring to the note published by UN Brazil “Not leaving anyone behind means not leaving anyone offline ”.
COVID-19 Factsheet: Why are information technologies the main means of social interaction during the pandemic