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News Story:

Opportunities at Panasonic

 

Talent Development at Panasonic through CSR Engagement


Panasonic aims for giving its employees a vast variety of opportunities to develop and stretch their abilities. The "Talent for Tomorrow" (TFT) program is one of these opportunities and aims to prepare Panasonic for the future. It is focused on creating a pool of motivated, driven and committed individuals. This 2 year development program provides to its participants the opportunity to exchange experiences with European colleagues from different Panasonic operations, to take part in workshops and work with others on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects with assigned Social Enterprises (SE). A case study with UK's charity Computer Aid International shows the benefits of this approach for both parties. 

Currently the 3rd wave of the TFT program is ongoing and the group of 14 people from across Europe has just finished their CSR projects with different Social Enterprises (SE), which have been in progress for 6 months. The SE assignment process has been coordinated by Community Action Network (CAN), who identified suitable entrepreneurial charities, which were then matched with TFT participants who were set the challenge of deploying their professional and personal skills to address a pressing business project.

The participants have worked in pairs mixed with regard to their countries of origin and professional background. So, for example, an IT Project Coordinator from Panasonic's Corporate Information Systems Company Europe (CISC-EU) located in Germany worked together with her Polish colleague who is a Sales and Marketing Manager in Warsaw on a project for a SE called Computer Aid International.

Computer Aid International is the world's largest and most experienced provider of high-quality, professionally refurbished PCs to developing countries and works with partners to deliver training and technical support to end-recipients. 

Founded in 1998 Computer Aid International is a UK charity that aims to reduce poverty through practical ICT solutions. Computer Aid is the largest supplier of professionally refurbished PCs to developing countries and works with partners to provide software, technical training and support. It makes IT affordable and accessible to people who would otherwise have no access to IT in areas such as agriculture, health and education. Computer Aid has strong links to the IT media in the UK and has provided over 175,000 PCs to where they are most needed in more than 100 countries.

The skills needed from the Panasonic team were: an understanding of IT industry/departments and/or CSR with a mix of skills from Sales & Marketing, Business processes, Business analysis. Therefore, the team's mixed professional background met these requirements.

During the first on-site meeting in London, Computer Aid's representatives responsible for Corporate Partnerships and Fundraising have been discussing with the Panasonic team the possible scope of the CSR project and specified their requirements.

The main objective of this project was to help Computer Aid with their method of approaching potential new corporate funding donors. By changing the approach to be more tailored and individual, it was hoped Computer Aid would be more successful in this business area and thus be able to finance more projects.

Computer Aid's work in developing countries is to identify potential recipient organisations where the application of IT will have the most positive social and economic impact. It is this close contact with recipients that informs the design of new solutions to problems experienced by poor communities.

An example of Computer Aid's work to fight the digital divide in rural areas is the Zuba Box - a Solar Powered Internet Café.


Shipped as a sea container      Network of 8-11 monitors          Breaking the cycle of poverty

In 2010 Computer Aid launched its first Zuba Box and shipped three, one to Kenya and two to Zambia. (Zuba is the word for Sun in Nyanja - a language spoken in Southern Zambia,
Zimbabwe and Malawi.)

The Zuba Box is made from a 20ft shipping container, normally used to transport refurbished computers. On arrival at their destination the container converts into a fully functional Internet cafe for 11 users at a time. The cafe requires little power due to the thin client network, which includes 11 flat screen monitors that run off a single Pentium PC.

Six solar panels are fitted on each roof - enough to provide 12 hours worth of electricity everyday. The panels will last up to 25 years. The containers can be placed and used anywhere on the planet, with no mains electricity or wired connectivity needed. To function they only require power from the sun and internet access is acquired through cellular data connection, wifi or VSAT.

The Zuba Box is an innovative concept which can engage the interest and enthusiasm of many organizations and companies, particularly those that plan to expand their corporate social responsibility activities in the areas of education, agriculture and health in the emerging markets. You can find out more about how to get involved by contacting stephen@computeraid.org

Panasonic Europe would be more than happy to continue working with Computer Aid International as part of the next waves of the "Talent for Tomorrow" HR development program.