The electronics industry trade group IEEE has decided to go the path of Doctors Without Borders and reach into the developing world and the rural United States to offer engineering help. The association is attempting to make a difference in the world and extend jobs globally and in the US.
IEEE Computer Society is modeling this effort on its programs that bring affordable electricity to rural Haiti and data connectivity in Peru. The goal is to create sustainable business, as well as provide clean energy. IEEE said the model can also be replicated in the US in low-income, rural areas to help people build businesses and create jobs.
IEEE leaders said its members wanted the association to offer large programs that could make a big difference. “Our membership is doing something to give back. Our volunteers want to apply their skills in a way that helps others,” Mary Ward-Callan, IEEE’s managing director of technical activities, said in an interview. “At first we dabbled in it, $10 to $20 here and there. Plus, local chapters were doing things. Yet, we had never embarked on something large.”
While IEEE has had programs to give, these new activities constitute a larger and more sustained effort to spread resources and expertise. “In the past, our success rate was small. We asked ourselves whether we could provide system engineering to a larger area,” Ward-Callan told us. “So we decided to try it. We started with an engineering approach. We wanted to offer design solutions with NGOs (non-government organizations).”
IEEE began modestly with its give-back program, but once it got traction, the association decided to roll out additional programs. “We started out thinking we could start with one project, and then we went ahead and launched four of them,” said Ward-Callan. “Two were power-related. We’re also looking at fryer oil for cars and water purification. We’re looking at engineering that helps communities to get more green.”
The projects offer a wide range of services, from electricity and connectivity to clean water and medical records. “In India, we created personal records that could move with people,” said Ward-Callan. “We chose places where there were chronic health care problems. We wanted to keep records bound with people. RFID helped in this effort.”
To support its effort to help communities, IEEE sought funding outside its own association budget. “The funding comes from a number of revenue streams,” said Ward-Callan. “It comes from initiative funding. It comes from the Engineers Without Borders -- they are very community oriented.”
Rob, as an IEEE member (for many years), this is the type of philanthrophy that I think is best. It not only involves giving money, but it involves the incredible resivoir of skills that the membership has.
I know someone who has also been involved in projects in Haiti through a religious organization. Haiti is a difficult place to get things done. Having people on the ground and following up should make for a better success rate.
I agree naperlou - not only money but resources and expertise are needed to fight world poverty and after reviewing the Sirona Cares web site - this is a great initiative by the IEEE to partner with them to provide affordable electricity. We too have friends that served in Haiti - as missionaries. They spoke often of the difficulties that you referred to in getting things done. It is amazing what has been accomplished by this project thus far and of the plans they have to continue. What a great pilot model for taking engineering expertise both around the world and in our own communities to help give people a hand out of poverty!
Charles, am completely supporting you. Other than our routine works, we have to offer our knowledge and other skills to the public for their wellbeing and welfare. In my office we have such a community known as “C-Smile”, through which we will undertake some charity works for the public benefit. Recently we had developed a portal for adaptive learning for autism affected students and distributed to public schools where such students are accommodate.
Rob, that's a good initiative. IEEE and CS (Computer society) has a large pool of well experience and eminent members, who are able to contribute to the community. I personally feel that such organizations have to take initiatives for addressing some of the common/public problems, which is benefiting to a large mass. In my country CSI is taking such responsibilities, especially for health care domains.
Rob, am from India and one among the CSI contribution is for OSSD (Open Source Drug Discovery). The IT support for Bio-Informatics community is extending by CSI. Another initiative is the public accounting software for rural health mission, where all the rural hospitals are interconnecting through a network.