I spent most of this summer working as an intern Public Digital, so it is time to reflect on those three months, and take stock of what actually happened.
My internship has been a true pleasure, and I found myself actually looking forward to going to work – which is not something I heard often from my fellow graduates about their experiences.
When it comes to exactly why I was so happy with the way these past months have turned out, I think it was because of the following things:
- The team: I have found it to be true that the people around you make or break any experience. The people at Public Digital are welcoming and friendly, which creates an atmosphere in the office that is very warm and inclusive – something I think was crucial in making this internship a success. As an intern, it’s ok to ask questions and to really learn from the experience and knowledge the people at PD have accumulated over the years.
- The international development angle: My time was almost exclusively spent on one project: as part of the newly set-up international development department at Public Digital, I became part of the ‘Madagascar Team’, working to assess the digital maturity of Madagascar’s public sector. As a student in the International Development Department at King’s College London, I was very excited to get to collaborate on a project set in a developing country, and to (hopefully) actually work on something that matters. The context this project was set in meant that I became familiar with the way governments work, with the donor landscape in Africa, and with the realities around digitisation, accessibility and governance. The research we conducted allowed us to get in touch with many interesting people and enterprises, such as Viamo for example, who developed a mobile phone information service. This allows people to call and receive free information through IVR (Interactive Voice Response) on a range of relevant topics such as health or agriculture.
- The opportunities: This internship was more than just desk research and writing emails – it included a 2-week stay in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. When I said people at Public Digital are inclusive, I meant it: even as an intern I was a full part of the team, joined in all meetings and even got the opportunity to take the lead on two smaller interview sessions.
- The lemurs: While in Madagascar, a trip to a lemur park was a must. Verdict: they are darn cute.
While I did get a lot (more than expected) out of this internship, is did not come without its challenges. Working on an international development project meant leaving my comfort zone, it meant being aware of context and of circumstances that are different to what I had grown up with and was used to. It meant adapting expectations and taking in more new information than I thought possible.
To take full advantage of the opportunities offered, you need to be willing to spend the effort and time on projects like this. I am happy I did.