IEEE ComSoc Panama Chapter Awards to Outstanding Professionals During the Covid-19 Pandemic

By Yessica Sáez - IEEE ComSoc Panama Chapter Chair

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rethinking of social practices and production systems that until a few months ago we took for granted. Everything has changed: distance education, telecommuting, suspended social encounters with family and friends, to name a few changes. Despite this, a large part of the population has been able to continue working, has managed to maintain contact with their loved ones, and has been able to take advantage of online platforms so that educational activities are not interrupted. All of this is proof of the remarkable progress in the telecommunications sector, and how it is helping us to keep the social and productive systems running during these difficult times. That is why by the end of 2020 the Communications Society (ComSoc) of the IEEE Panama Section proposed the creation of Awards to Outstanding Professionals during COVID-19 Awards.

The objective of these awards was to distinguish Panamanians, both young and those more experienced, who have made outstanding contributions in the field of telecommunications in relation to COVID-19 during 2020. Thus, two award categories where created: Outstanding Young Telecommunications Professional during COVID-19 and the Excellence Telecommunications Professional during COVID-19.

The call for nominations was launched on February 8, 2021. The Award to Outstanding Young Telecommunications Professional during COVID-19 was open to young professionals, no older than 40 years, who have worked and resided in Panama during 2020. Candidates could be engineers, scientists, educators, technical executives or creators in the field of telecommunications. They had to demonstrate contributions in the field of telecommunications during the COVID-19 pandemic by 2020. The Award to Excellence Telecommunications Professional during COVID-19 was open to professionals over 40 years of age, who have practiced professionally for at least 10 years. In this category, nominees had to possess scientific and technological products with national and international impact, and have demonstrated contributions in the field of telecommunications during the COVID-19 pandemic by 2020.

After a rigorous evaluation process, the winners in both categories were announced on March 15, 2021.

Yhonattan Young, who works at Copa Airlines as a Technological Infrastructure Specialist, was the winner of the Award for the Outstanding Young Telecommunications Professional during COVID-19, due to his relevant participation in a metropolitan network reengineering project that interconnected different sites such as the Tocumen International Airport, the Headquarters, the Primary Data Center of Copa, as well as other sites in Panama City.

This metropolitan network is essential to be able to provide a world-class service to all the passengers of this company, since it is through reliable connectivity, the different technological services such as applications and interfaces are enabled, which allow Copa Airlines to offer a high-quality product. This reengineering was carried out in a period of five months during 2020 and it involved a lot of learning, since it was precisely during a crisis where people like Yhonattan brought out the innate capacity of the human being to innovate, learn and find solutions.

On the other hand, Gina Villafañe, Information Science Consultant in the Government Innovation Authority of Panama, along with other collaborators, has managed to place this country as one of the pioneer countries in the use of technological tools that are integrated with all public and private health systems in services related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, Gina Villafañe is:

  • Lead Engineer, responsible for the design of data mining algorithms for epidemiological monitoring, indicator production and statistical analysis of the Ministry of Health.

  • Technical representative at the executive council of the Operation Center for the Control and Traceability of COVID-19.

  • Lead Engineer, responsible for the design of the vaccine meter data set for the PanavaC19 operation.

By rethinking how to approach complex problems, the adoption of technology (mature or emerging), intangible assets (knowledge, data, etc.), among others, for the creation of public value, Gina Villafañe is a tangible example that the human talent that Panama has in telecommunications is of very high quality.

In a small but significant virtual ceremony, held on March 29, 2021, ComSoc Panama awarded the winners, who received a certificate of recognition from ComSoc Panama, one year of an IEEE and ComSoc membership, cash, and the admiration and respect of the technical and general community of Panama.

Gina Villafañe, winner of the Award to Outstanding Professional during Covid-19, excellence award category, Panama Chapter, 29 March 2021.