IBM Launches New Pro Bono Sustainability Accelerator in Africa

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IBM Sustainability Accelerator focuses on Malawian agritech.

IBM today announced the launch of the IBM Sustainability Accelerator, a global pro bono social impact program that applies IBM technologies, such as hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence, and an ecosystem of experts to enhance and scale non-profit and government organization operations, focused on populations vulnerable to environmental threats including climate change, extreme weather, and pollution.

“We believe that the power of science, technology and innovation can help tackle environmental issues while serving vulnerable communities exposed to environmental hazards,” said Justina Nixon, VP of Corporate Social Responsibility and ESG at IBM.

“By pairing expertise and technology with the goal of improving the lives of populations most affected by environmental threats, we have the potential to make lasting, scalable impact.”

Last year, a pilot project with three inaugural participants of the IBM Sustainability Accelerator was conducted. This included Heifer International which is working with IBM to help deliver sustainable agriculture solutions in Malawi.

Heifer International – which successfully finished phase I of the project last December – is working with IBM to develop scalable and affordable digital solutions designed to equip farmers’ cooperatives in Malawi with weather and crop yield forecasts to help increase their yields and incomes.

“Through collaborations in Malawi and Honduras, Heifer International and IBM are supporting smallholder farmers to bridge the digital divide. We look forward to working with IBM through the Sustainability Accelerator initiative, supporting smallholder farmers as they leverage digital tools to reach sustainable living income. Our work will increase productivity, market access and livelihoods for the farmers and rural communities who feed the world,” said Elizabeth Magombo-Kabaghe, Innovations and New Initiatives Lead, Heifer Malawi.

The program:

The IBM Sustainability Accelerator will provide support to each selected organization for two years following a two-phased approach.

Phase I: Accelerator engagements will kick off with the IBM Garage, IBM’s methodology to apply design thinking and agile techniques to fast-track meaningful innovation and drive lasting culture change.

During this process, IBM experts will work with the beneficiary organization to identify their needs and establish a clear roadmap to design, develop, deploy, and continually improve technology to help solve specific public challenges.

Phase II: In a second phase, IBM cross-industry experts will configure IBM resources and technology designed to help participants meet their community and environmental impact goals. Some of the technologies that will be applied will include IBM Watson AI, IBM Cloud, or the Environmental Intelligence Suite, among others.

In addition, IBM Sustainability Accelerator beneficiary organizations will receive monthly IBM Cloud credits, weather data credits, mentorship, and access to IBM partner ecosystem. IBM experts will also support pilot deployments of solutions to help facilitate optimal implementation, to scale long-term impact and drive key societal outcomes.

Selection process:

Each year, IBM will define one theme for the RFP and project selection of the organizations that belong to that year’s cohort.

Today, with the official launch of the program, we are inviting non-profit organizations to apply to a public RFP for the 2022 cohort’s focus on clean energy. Proposals are due by 30 April 2022, and should be submitted through our Submission Portal.

“Cloud, AI, 5G, quantum computing can all be put to work to drive a positive impact on big social issues such as climate change. Yet populations with the biggest needs are often those with the least access to technology,” says Carolina Milanesi, Founder, Heart of Tech.

“It is the responsibility of technology companies like IBM to make sure they are prioritized rather than left behind.”


Edited by Luis Monzon
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