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December, 10th 2013

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!

The author (third from right) and the rest of the IBM Corporate Service Corps Ethiopia Team

The author (third from right) and the rest of the IBM Corporate Service Corps Ethiopia Team

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.

Community Day at Adama University with a "Building Your Personal Brand" presentation and workshop

Community Day at Adama University with a “Building Your Personal Brand” presentation and workshop

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.

Related Resources:

Can Technology Help Transform Agriculture in Ethiopia?

Laying the Foundation for Nairobi’s – and Kenya’s – Economic Growth

Read More About IBM Corporate Citizenship in Sub-Saharan Africa

Discover IBM Corporate Service Corps

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December 11, 2013
7:38 AM

Great job Andrew, and it looks like you ennjoyed every bit of it :-)

Posted by: François
December 11, 2013
2:12 PM

Wouah, what a wonderful CSC experience in Ethiopia ! Congrats Andrew !!!

Posted by: Paul, CSC China 21
December 12, 2013
4:22 AM

Wow, it sounds great! Really makes me want to follow this program too :) Congratulations!

Posted by: Jérôme
December 15, 2013
2:38 AM

Thanks to share your ethiopian experience…Congratulations Andrew

Posted by: Nadine
December 16, 2013
10:57 AM

Andrew, very inspirational story of how technology is changing lives in Ethiopia and exciting that the IBM CSC program allows you and IBM to be a part of that change. I have recounted your story to associates outside of IBM who marvel at how committed IBM is to helping communities thru programs like CSC and the Smarter Cities Challenges. Thank you for the Gandhi quote!

Posted by: Chester Karwatowski
August 7, 2014
4:03 AM

I just discover today your post Andrew, one day before leaving to Ethiopia, and I feel it very enthusiastic and energizing. I’ll keep Gandhi phrase in mind, and also expect to discover a lot for this CSC experience, both about the country and its civilization, but also about how IBM is contributing to develop this area and finally about myself …
Talk to you again in September, if not before

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