Volunteers impacting communities around the world

Story of service • Worldwide • May 2012

In March, the 10 winning volunteer teams for the 2011 On Demand Community Excellence Award were announced. Each volunteer team was selected based on their extraordinary projects created during the Centennial Celebration of Service. The winners supported projects that apply IBM’s smarter planet strategies to community service, and each project can become a model for similar volunteer engagements elsewhere. In April, we reported on the continuing progress of five team projects. This month, we offer updates on the progress of the remaining five winning teams.

Team India

“Smarter Village” vision becoming a reality

Niranjan Pandey in northern India
wheat field
IBM volunteers working with the Drishtee Foundation are reworking IBM’s vision of “Smarter City” into one of a “Smarter Village,” using 21st century technologies and business skills to forge an efficient distribution system for the products and services of India’s farmers and villagers.

The Centennial Grant-funded project, Smart Rural Aggregation Platform (SRAP), is intended to transform poor, isolated Indian villages into communities that are instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. It all begins with five villages in northern India, clustered within 40 kilometers of the state capital of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.

Niranjan Pandey, project executive of the IBM India Rural Outreach Program, spearheads SRAP, with Application Architect Naveen Prathapaneni. He spent years developing the idea, with extensive field work under the leadership of Strategy Leader Jeby Cherian, who is upbeat about the conversion of this challenging program into reality.

“It will be a dream coming true,” Niranjan says, “as we launch this project and test the proof of concept of building an ecosystem that helps in economic and social upliftment of the under-served rural population. IBM technology will help improve accessibility for rural consumers to reach the urban market, and vice versa.”

He has been delighted with the outpouring of IBM volunteerism for SRAP, beginning with the 2011 Day of Service. More than 20 ODC volunteers continue to architect the technology platform and software, in collaboration with the Drishtee Foundation, a not-for-profit that works with marginalized rural communities. Another 30 volunteers are engaged in areas such as business analysis, market research, project management, operations, process development and communications.

Deployment awaits Internet access

To date, Naveen Prathapaneni
has volunteered more than 500
hours on the project.
Initial development of the SRAP is complete, and awaits Internet access at the five villages in coming months. Users will then begin accessing information, and the system can be fully evaluated. Computer terminals with wi-fi access have been deployed at designated “rural entrepreneurs” at each village. Training centers are already in operation at two villages, initially offering courses in basic computer training, embroidery and masonry work. Three more centers are planned.

Drishtee is also engaging the government’s Central Institute for Subtropical Horticulture to use the technology to advise farmers on best practices to enhance productivity and generate income. SRAP is also expected to optimize farmers’ links to fertilizer, seed and pesticide suppliers for good quality and prices.

Once the full SRAP platform is deployed and evaluated, IBM India plans to deploy it on a cloud and test its scalability. Niranjan notes, “We don’t believe a project of this kind has ever been attempted on this scale. The most satisfying part is that it is intended to carry forward into a larger number of villages. Our ambition is to replicate it across the country and maybe even other geographies.”

Mamtha Sharma, manager, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, adds, “Here is a unique community service project that is expected to add value to IBM business. It presents a smart blending of IBM Strategy and Corporate Citizenship objectives.

So, on the horizon: more and more Smarter Villages.

Team Ireland

Automated transportation system for Irish cancer patients ready for pilot

Members of the IBM volunteer team
and Irish Cancer Society officials pose
with the On Demand Community
Excellence Award.
Sometimes the most ambitious project begins with a simple conversation.

IBM’s close relationship with the Irish Cancer Society (ICF) and its “Care to Drive” program began on a Dublin commuter train, in an after-work discussion about the complexity and cost of providing free transportation for Dublin area cancer patients.

Intrigued, IBM software specialist Declan Dunne described the situation to Robert McCarthy, formerly with IBM Research, now Operations Manager, Cúram Software Integration, IBM Software Group. Robert recognized Care to Drive as a popular and worthwhile project with potential to serve an even larger population. But it was hampered by limited Cancer Society staff with minimal automated tools and seemingly unlimited logistical problems. In other words, he saw the potential for a great implementation of cloud-based, Smarter Cities technology and a great centennial year volunteer project.

So Robert applied for an IBM Centennial Grant on behalf of the cancer society. IBM responded with a $75,000 award, and a team of 14 highly qualified IBM volunteers stepped forward. Most come from the Dublin Software Lab including a core group of seven from Industry Solutions led by Solution Architect and Team Lead Martin Stephenson, along with others from Ireland’s Smarter Cities Technology Centre.

Their goal: to automate the labor-intensive process of providing free patient transportation to and from cancer treatments – a task complicated by hectic doctor schedules, the availability of volunteer drivers, the evolving needs of patients weakened by chemotherapy, and other complicating circumstances such as the need for patient privacy, last-minute cancellations and traffic congestion. Meanwhile, the team was determined to maintain the society’s reputation for care and compassion, – and be prepared to adapt Care to Drive to serve all eight specialized cancer treatment centers scattered about Ireland.

Robert says the new Care to Drive software is being tested and will be implemented in pilot form at Dublin’s St. Vincent’s Hospital in mid-May. If all goes as planned, it will go live at all eight cancer centers by year-end.

For now, though, the IBM volunteers’ fine-tuning continues. As Robert notes, 29,000 people in Ireland are diagnosed with cancer each year. “The last thing anyone wants is for them to worry about how to get to their treatments. ICS wants to improve Care to Drive and make it available throughout the country. This is something we should be able to do on a Smarter Planet using technology and know-how.”

For the IBMer whose commuter conversation started all this, Declan says he feels “fantastic about how all this has turned out. I didn’t do an awful lot, really, I just had to find the right people in IBM, and they took it from there.”

“It all began with a conversation on a train,” adds Deirdre Kennedy, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs manager, “but it took on a life of its own. IBM volunteers have contributed hundreds of hours to the project, and it’s all coming together now.

To view a YouTube video about the IBM-Irish Cancer Society collaboration, click here.

Team Singapore

Project Green Insight promotes energy efficiency to Singapore’s next generation.

Kok Chin Tay conducts a workshop
on energy efficiency with students.
How do you teach the next generation’s leaders the importance of energy conservation and have lasting impact?

In Singapore, IBMers have teamed with the Singapore Green Building Council and Ministry of Education in pursuit of that goal, aided by a $100,000 Centennial Grant award. The Green Building Council's Project Green Insights is being used to develop a system to track power usage and reduce energy and maintenance costs in 20 Singapore schools, then leverage that new ability to promote energy conservation awareness.

Kok Chin Tay, IBM solutions alliance leader in Singapore, led efforts to secure the grant. He says the plan is to educate teachers and students at those 20 schools on the reasons and methods for cutting energy use, and provide them with far greater control over their school’s energy conservation future through access to the IBM SmartCloud and IBM Energy Management Solution.

And when all is done, he says, the team plans to multiply that effort by helping each of the 20 schools to reach out to at least five other Singapore schools to share their new knowledge of energy efficiency, “and then encourage those other schools to embark on the same journey.”

An initial, intense workshop was held March 16 for the students and staff of two schools. “Preparation for that ‘Entrepreneurship Workshop’ was most tedious, but it’s behind us,” Kok Chin says. “We established a partnership with Junior Achievement, established a partnership with the green technology company Getc Asia to help with the workshop contents, and then facilitated the first workshop.”

Lim Guan Hong, Ministry of Education infrastructure executive, told the IBM participants he was “amazed at the professionalism and efforts put in on the training session, and it is certainly a good model for the rest of the schools.”

Energy audits of all 20 schools have been collected and meetings are being planned to share the information with students. “Smart meters” that automatically collect data on energy usage have been tested successfully at Yuan Ching Secondary School. Three others were expected to be connected to the Singapore Ministry of Education’s network and the SmartCloud by early May, and all 20 by July 2012.

Pleased with results to date, Kok Chin says Project Green Insights “is important to me because I can be part of the process to raise the next generation of leaders who can help Singapore become energy efficient. This project is also important as a way to get IBM industry partners to contribute back to society by volunteering.”

Kok Chin says Project Green Insight relies heavily on the ability to tap the skills of other IBMers in other countries, and he hopes it can “be a model that we can replicate in other countries.”

Team Turkey

Helping mentally disabled children in Turkey

IBM volunteers include Erman Akdogan,
left, Pinar Kilavuz, Fatih Deniz, Ayse Guveli,
Burcak Semerci, Dilsah Yergin Zenginler.
Not shown: Osman Alpay
People involved with mentally disabled children in Turkey agree those children are numerous and often among the nation’s most disadvantaged. They also would like more accurate information, and an enhanced ability to collaborate.

Those improvements are coming.

An estimated 12 percent of the people of Turkey are disabled. They constitute a great portion of the country’s disadvantaged population, but the country has no exact data for the disabled population.

Because of the lack of an integrated database, health and public services for the disabled are neglected – for instance, it is estimated that 2 out of 5 people with disabilities cannot attend social activities because of physical difficulties.

A leader in serving a key part of that community is ZİÇEV, the Foundation for the Training and Protection of Mentally Handicapped Children, a 30-year-old organization with a mission to meet the educational and other needs of children throughout Turkey. One chronic obstacle they face is the lack of a single platform that connects disabled students, families, volunteers, education experts and not-for-profits, for more effective collaboration and better services.

With the help of an IBM Centennial Grant and the principles of Smarter Healthcare, the Foundation is preparing to provide that platform. Together with the funding, a team of seven IBM volunteers is providing project management and business and technical consulting.

There is a warm, family feeling between the IBM volunteers and ZİÇEV staff, who have traditionally gotten by with very limited technology and time-honored practices, says IBM Business Transformation Consultant Ayse Guveli. “Whenever we have meetings, their management team has made us feel at home as they welcomed us with the homemade cookies and pastries that the management team members actually made themselves.”

Together, the partners analyzed the existing Foundation Internet site for functionality and friendliness, gathered staff expectations and requirements, and proposed new functions for the web portal.

Work on the portal was 70 percent complete by late April, and expected to go online in May, according to Burcak Semerci, Turkey’s Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs manager.

She says the core of the partnership is use of appropriate components of IBM’s Smarter Healthcare model. The foundation is compiling data about the disabled children who receive education from ZICEV, to provide better service and connect the kids with parents, teachers and volunteers. The portal will also enable ZICEV to collaborate with other NGOs and government about implementing common projects through the project database, and serve as an example to other not-for-profits.

For the IBM team, says Ayse, “This project is very important to us because it will provide the necessary support to increase the quality of life of mentally disabled children.”

Teammate Pinar Kilavuz, like Ayse, a business transformation consultant, is pleased with the willingness of ZİÇEV partners to embrace innovation. “They had a traditional way of managing their operations,” she notes. “We can state that we’ve challenged them to use IT more effectively, thus improving the services provided to mentally disabled kids.”

Team Vermont, United States

Energy management is for everyone.

Chris Beatatie, VTC facilities administrator,
left, with IBM's Michael Pelletier and
Paul Biggs.
Visitors admire the remarkable energy efficiencies of IBM Burlington, according to Site Operations Manager and Senior Location Executive Janette Bombardier. But that admiration is often accompanied by the feeling that the semiconductor manufacturing site’s success is the conservation equivalent of Babe Ruth swinging a bat.

After slashing its own energy use by 20 percent over the past decade, IBM Burlington is a showcase for IBM’s home-grown Sustainability Management System, a Smarter Planet case study for water and energy management. “But we constantly hear, ‘You’re IBM – you have the engineers – you are technical – we could never get this result,’” Janette says. “So we set out, during the Centennial Celebration, to demonstrate that if you have a comprehensive energy management process, you too can get these kinds of results.”

Funded by an IBM Centennial Grant, IBM Burlington in 2011 partnered with Vermont State Colleges to reduce energy usage by 5% or more a year, at two not-for-profits, Vermont Technical College (VTC) and HowardCenter Inc. (VTC has long provided technical education for site employees, and IBM volunteers have a lengthy relationship with the HowardCenter, with its 50-plus buildings including schools, group homes, family services and substance abuse treatment facilities.)

Improvements begin on the IBM Centennial Day of Service.

The process began on June 15, 2012, with an “energy pep rally” where IBM volunteers conducted brainstorming sessions with the grant recipients and collected over 100 energy saving ideas in the first afternoon. Eventually more than 100 volunteers would be engaged in areas such as energy management, project management, construction management, facilities engineering, logistics and communications.

VTC and HowardCenter put together the teams, and began comprehensive reviews of utility bills with the assistance of IBM. They established databases of relevant cost, usage and other operational elements, implementing elements of IBM’s Energy Management Framework. Data collected has been used to understand electrical demand and to provide feedback and predictions regarding the overall usage reduction goal.

Results to date:

For HowardCenter: “Amazing!” Janette proclaims. “We have achieved our goal of 5% electrical energy savings nine months into the project! Next up: natural gas, propane gas, and heating oil savings.”

For VTC: Efforts began a bit later, but the college also expects to easily exceed its efficiency goals by year-end. Among other things, the campus soon will be getting Smart Meters to measure energy consumption, as a result of Vermont’s becoming the first Smart Grid state. The college already has $12,000 a year in savings ideas being implemented, and over Spring Break held its first “Get Unplugged” energy management competition. The dorm that reduced its energy usage the most over spring break (by unplugging electrical devices) is getting a pizza party.

IBMers have shown staff and students that saving energy involves far more than technical advice and equipment. Janette especially likes the series of posters on energy saving tips that go up in HowardCenter buildings each month, as well as a voice mail sent to all employees using a “knock knock” joke reminding everyone to turn off equipment during the Christmas holiday break. VTC also identified and publicized a real “Energy Hog” during an audit of the school’s farm operations.

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