By Bruno Cássio

The presence of the Minister of Health, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, representatives of the ministerial staff, members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and representatives from LAIS/UFRN have been highlights of the first official appointment of the International Council for Open and Distance Education’s (ICDE) crew in Brazil. The visit is the first step towards the organisation of the 29th ICDE World Conference, the largest event on distance education worldwide, which shall take place in October of 2021, in the city of Natal.

One of the meetings highlights was the accolades given to the Laboratory of Technological Innovation in Health (LAIS) in the development of research in both the national and international contexts, acting in technical cooperation with countries from North America and Europe, for an example. Authorities reaffirmed the importance of the experience of the LAIS for attracting participants and contributing to the advancement of online learning.

In the morning of this Monday, the 9th, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MRE), the representatives of both parties were hosted by Erwin Epiphanio, Chief of the Division of Migratory Control, and by Pedro Zacarias, from the Division of Education and Portuguese Language.

Also present were the Secretary General of ICDE, Torunn Gjelsvik, the Coordinator of Events and Communications for ICDE, Caroline Seville, the Secretary for the 29th World Conference of ICDE and researcher for LAIS, Carlos Alberto Oliveira, LAIS researcher Hélio Hékis, who represented LAIS Coordinator and President of the 29th World Conference on Online Learning, Ricardo Valentim, and also LAIS researchers João Henrique Neto and Carla Lima.

Alongside the MRE representatives, there were discussions over the bureaucratic matters regarding the entrance process for the attendees of the World Conference in Brazil, and also the support for the event. After presentations from both the LAIS and ICDE crews, Erwin Epiphanio complimented the work developed by the laboratory in partnership with ICDE and cleared some details over the visa soliciting process for the conference participants.

Pedro Zacarias was supportive in stating that the team of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dealing with educational matters is at the service of the event’s organisers. Both reaffirmed in their speeches the natural beauty of Natal and its privileged geographic location at the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, which are very attractive to stimulate the coming of visitors during the conference.

In the afternoon, it was time for the LAIS and ICDE crews to head on to the Ministry of Health. There, they were greeted by the Minister of Health, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who declared to know a lot about the work of LAIS. In August of 2019, he has visited the Laboratory and got to know very closely the many researches being developed in the sun city. According to the Minister, it is important to support events such as this, which deal with distance education and stimulate the development of health professionals.

In such occasion, the Minister emphasised the Brazilian potential and asked for haste by the ministerial team to assist in whatever proves necessary to ensure the event’s success. Also present in the event were Mayra Pinheiro, Secretary of Workforce Management and Health Education in the Ministry of Health (SGTES), Helio Angotti, Substitute Secretary for SGTES, Maria Cristina Abrão Nachif, Assistant for the Office of the Minister of Health, Aluísio Souza and Marcos Alves, from the Department of Management and Health Education (DGES), and Taiana Alencar and Jorge Ramalho, from the International Secretariat of the Ministry of Health.

LAIS researcher and Conference Secretary, Carlos Alberto Oliveira, emphasised the international contribution that the Laboratory has given to human qualification on health and quoted the recent work developed with the qualification of communitary health agents in Tanzania, Africa, through the Virtual Environment for Learning of the Unified Health System (AVASUS)

The availability to collaborate with the ICDE World Conference has called the attention of Secretary General, Torunn Gjelsvik. According to her, the warm reception from the Brazilian authorities and the general demonstrations of appreciation for LAIS’ work are a good sign for making the conference, which will take place in Brazil, a truly grandiose event.



From Europe to Natal
Bringing the ICDE World Conference to Natal was a dream that started being realised in May of 2019, when the bid presented by LAIS was approved in the ICDE headquarters in Oslo, Norway. From there on, a work of collaboration with ICDE actions was intensified.

In November of 2019, in Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland, LAIS Coordinator, Ricardo Valentim, was the main speaker at the 28th World Conference on Online Learning. At that occasion, Natal was presented as the future host city for the Conference. While speaking of Humanitary Science and Global Health, Valentim brought to surface some contemporaneous topics such as the 4th Industrial Revolution.

On the occasion, the Ambassador for Brazil in Ireland, Eliana Zugaib, delivered a speech reinforcing the importance of the realisation of the conference in Natal and congratulated LAIS and UFRN for the initiative.

Industry 4.0
The development and incorporation of technological innovations are already giving impulse to a bundle of disruptive technologies with the increment of high scalability and low cost experiments in the market. Some of these are being developed in the research bases of the Laboratory of Technological Innovation in Health, such as experiments in the fields of artificial intelligence, big data, 3D printing and assistive technologies.

In 2021, the eyes of the globalised world acting in online education will be turned to the capital of Rio Grande do Norte. LAIS and its local partners for this event, such as the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, the UFRN’s Secretariat of Distance Education, the Digital Metropolis Institute (IMD), the UFRN’s Secretariat of International and Interinstitutional Relations (SRI), and the Ágora Institute are ready to share knowledge, debate and trace routes for the future of open, quality and far reaching education.