IBMers Pandu Sastrowardoyo (top) and Eno Wulansari, and thousands of citizen volunteers are creating the IBM Digital Library for the blind.
IBMers Pandu
Sastrowardoyo (top)
and Eno Wulansari,
and thousands
of citizen volunteers
are creating the
IBM Digital Library
for the Blind.

The IBM Digital Library for the blind in Indonesia came about as a team effort, with two of the volunteers on the team— Pandu Sastrowardoyo and Eno Retno Wulansari—receiving 2016 IBM volunteer excellence awards for their work.

In Indonesia, the digital library is an ongoing effort to transcribe books into braille and audiobook formats, an expensive and time-consuming process that needed more hands on the project.

Santi Diansari Sarino, the IBM manager for corporate citizenship and corporate affairs in Indonesia, manages corporate service activities and helps build relationships between the company and the community. To attract volunteers to the task of transcribing books into the appropriate formats, Santi used her outreach skills to help expand the project. She teamed with Pandu Sastrowardoyo, an IBM technical solution manager, who built the IBM On Demand Community app that helps format the books. Another IBM volunteer, Yonas Yudistira, helped coordinate.

Yet, even with the app, Santi says that only seven people were assigned to retyping the books, so at maximum effort they could only produce about 100 books each year, which was much too slow, despite the team’s dedication.

The power of a challenge

After seeing the ice bucket challenge on YouTube that helped raise money for charities, Santi was inspired to create a typing challenge to help blind people. The challenge required that each participant retype books. More people got involved, but Santi still felt that there should be a better way to expedite the number of books in the digital library.

Santi and her colleagues created a challenge for several cities, where each mayor could ask their constituents to be part of the movement.

The mayor of Bogor, Bima Arya, and his city contributed 1,000 books within five weeks. Then Mayor Bima challenged Ridwan Kamil, the mayor of Bandung—whose community produced 1,500 books. Following that, Mayor Kamil challenged Danny Pomanto, mayor of Makassar. However, Mayor Pomanto did something different.

He instructed every class in each junior high school and high school in Makassar to be a “hero of literacy.” As a result, 50,000 people volunteered to retype books and produce 50,000 soft copies to be converted into braille and audiobooks. It was an extraordinary moment. “Each of the volunteers’ names will be recorded in the IBM Digital Library,” Santi says.

Technology plays a role too

In addition to the movement for volunteer typists, Santi joined with IBMer Eno Retno Wulansari to create a programming class for the blind, which began in August 2016.

Eno’s skills and expertise as a technical training opportunity manager for IBM Systems Lab Services were well used.

“It ended being beyond my dreams,” says Santi. “We had 20 IBM volunteers dedicated for six months, who took turns leading the class that Eno developed. We conducted special weekend classes in coding, programming, and Bluemix.”

Also, the team has used several IBM volunteer activity kits to support the work of the library.

Santi hopes that in the decades to come, IBM will work to make more technology available to helping people who are blind enjoy equal opportunities in reading books, just as much as people with sight. “I want blind people in Indonesia to be able to use apps on their mobile phones, tablets, laptops,” Santi says.

A wider footprint

“Volunteering is a wonderful job,” Santi says. “We create brand awareness, we bring happiness to people, we can share our abilities and expertise with others—that is the beauty of all. With this program IBM Indonesia created a footprint to help others.”

While the IBM Digital Library is helping people with limited or no sight, Santi is also working with an IBM Global Business Services team to create an app targeted toward Indonesian children fighting cancer.

The incredible success of the digital library volunteer initiative lets her know that large-scale improvement is possible with the support of volunteers. “We have full confidence in moving forward,” Santi says.

Eno Retno Wulansari and Pandu Sastrowardoyo from IBM Indonesia are among 14 other IBM teams and individuals who are recipients of the twelfth annual IBM Volunteer Excellence Award. The award is recognition from IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty, and is the highest form of global volunteer recognition given by the company to employees.


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