Thursday, July 28, 2016

IBM and U.S. Peace Corps work with IRRI to strengthen its technical capacities

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—IBM and U.S. Peace Corps volunteers recently worked hand-in-hand with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to further strengthen the institute’s effectiveness in securing global food security. Their recommendations for achieving the improvements were presented at the closing rites of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) program at IRRI headquarters on 21 July.

The 15 CSC volunteers from the U.S., Brazil, South Africa, Slovakia, Italy, Spain, Mexico, the Netherlands, and India arrived in June to collaborate with their counterparts at IRRI in developing blueprints for four different sectors.  A parallel program was also conducted at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

The teams at IRRI presented strategic plans for transitioning the institute’s library resources into a virtual, fully digitized, and network-based facility; providing data storage and computing infrastructure to meet the institute's processing needs; developing a “one-stop shop” where IRRI staff members could update country dossiers using existing resources with minimal manual input; and transforming IRRI's Training Center into a world-class Rice Science Academy (IRRI RSA).

“As global scientists, we here at IRRI often think that we are the only ones who can solve the problems,” said Bruce Tolentino, IRRI deputy director general for communication and partnerships. “But that’s not the case. IRRI requires a lot of collaboration and a lot of potent, fresh minds to solve the problems. Working with them has been a valuable experience.”

Corinta Guerta, IRRI director for external relations, agreed. “IRRI and IBM have been interacting with each other since the late 1970’s,” she said. “But this is the first time we’ve worked with them under their CSC program. We’re very fortunate that we were selected.”

“At the beginning, we thought that this would be quite risky,” Dr. Tolentino said. “Why bring in a set of people who don’t know anything about rice research to solve our problems? But it turned out to be good.”

“The CSC teams approached some of our challenges using tools they had and provided potential solutions,” he added. ”If you try to value the amount of time the team spent at IRRI and translated it monetarily—it’s a huge amount and we need to see it for that value. We hope that it pays off for all of us here.”

CSC is IBM’s pro bono consulting program, which was created in 2008 to help solve some of the most challenging problems in communities around the world while providing top-performing IBM employees with unique leadership development. IBM’s CSC at IRRI and SEARCA was conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Peace Corps and PYXERA Global.

“I do want it to demonstrate how serious IBM’s commitment is to social responsibility,” said Richard Chang, one of the CSC members. “We were chosen from thousands of volunteers but we also chose this because we wanted to give back.”

(This news item was written by Dan Christian M. Marinay, IRRI intern.)


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