Just over three months ago, I landed in Addis Ababa for my IBM Corporate Service Corps assignment in Ethiopia. I had been reading an article on the plane about Mahatma Gandhi and as I descended on the Ethiopian capital, one of his quotes kept on going around in my head: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” With Gandhi’s wisdom in mind, I began my CSC assignment!
I was deployed as part of a team of 12 IBMers from eight different countries. We had been working for four months to prepare for our 30-day pro bono engagement in Adama, Ethiopia. Our team was engaged in helping three of Ethiopia’s key ministries – Agriculture, Trade, and Communication & Information Technology – develop strategic roadmaps to enable Ethiopia to meet its Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) objectives by 2015.
My sub-team was assisting the Ministry of Agriculture to implement a Measurement and Evaluation system allowing them to analyze agricultural data from all over the country – collecting it directly from every individual farmer. Ethiopia is a vast country and the task ahead is huge. With two previous implementation failures, the Ministry of Agriculture was clearly counting on IBM’s recommendations to get this one right.
We applied IBM’s Target Operating Model methodology to improve the system implementation. This helped the ministry understand the technologies required to implement the new system, and also gave it the governance structures to manage the system on a daily basis.
Providing expertise and problem solving skills to a highly visible national project that supports local Ethiopian communities was personally rewarding, but I was also impressed about how much I gained professionally. Working in an emerging market and understanding the potential for growth is just one step along the IBM CSC learning curve.
Though I have been implementing IT systems across IBM’s European markets for several years, I had to reconsider my whole approach while working on the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture’s Measurement and Evaluation system implementation strategy. Topics such as mobility that have only recently become “strategic” in mature markets are an absolute necessity in countries where more than 80 percent of the population lacks access to electricity. To help overcome that challenge, the CSC team recommended making use of existing initiatives by the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, which has begun to deploy mobile tablets to farmers across the country.
In addition, my participation in Corporate Service Corps enabled me to explore and take on new roles and responsibilities, as well as sharing experiences and learning from other team members. For example, I got the opportunity to organize and participate in IBM press conferences – something that I would have never expected to be involved in as part of my “day job.” I also initiated a meeting between IBM and a representative from the Embassy
of the United States Economic/Commercial Office to present on the IBM CSC involvement in Ethiopia.
I have returned home to the UK from my assignment with the satisfaction of having helped the local Ethiopian communities, while also having built upon my leadership skills and network. I now continuously monitor IBM’s activities in Africa, and I am always proud to see the impact we make. IBM recently opened our new Africa Research Lab in Nairobi, Kenya (our 12th international research center), which demonstrates how committed we are to pursuing business opportunities and improving the quality of life in growing markets.
Looking back, I would definitely recommend the Corporate Service Corps experience to any IBMer or employee of an IBM partner or client. Through the IBM CSC, you’ll have a chance to make a difference in the world while strengthening your networking and leadership skills. It’s also a great adventure!
Andrew Worsley-Tonks is a Managing Consultant with IBM Global Business Services
in the UK.