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Volunteering to bridge the ‘Digital Divide’

It’s been said, more than once, that we are perhaps living in the best time for humanity.

Manish Kumar / March 26, 2019

Life expectancy is at its highest, and more people than ever before have access to healthcare, clean water, education and a livelihood. Yet, for all our progress, there remains a startling degree of wealth inequality.

This divide also extends into the digital world, where the speed of digitalization is such that large sections of the global population are left without access to digital services. That's hundreds of millions of people stuck in the digital slow lane!

We, Manish and Elisa, had the honour to work towards breaching this gap through Tieto's Nordic Volunteer Program. Tieto is a significant player in the Nordic IT market and as we were last year celebrating our 50th year of existence, we have put in an extra effort towards giving back to society through using our working hours to volunteer.

Over the half-century of our existence, we've been a major player in making the Nordics a forerunner of digitalization and now it was time to ensure the newcomers can make the most of what our digital society has to offer.

As part of Tieto's giving back -initiative, Tieto employees have been able to use working hours for skill-based volunteering - we got excitedly involved in the initiative and chose strengthening digital equality as our focus point.This led us to spend two inspiring days together with Startup Refugees Finland and two different groups of refugees and asylum seekers.

The two days were designed to provide basic IT and digital skills to refugees that had recently arrived in Finland. Our ambition was to ease their navigation and integration to the highly digitalized Finnish society. In addition to practical tips on where to find the most relevant information for everyday life, we focused on highlighting the internet etiquette, online safety and differences in for example IPR rules and regulations. Something all of us could be reminded of every now and then, right?

This was the first time for both of us to participate in an activity like this - and we're glad we did. We were able to share our skills with people who really found them useful.

With help from the co-ordinators we were able to put together a module that was appreciated by the participants – so much so that we ended up having another session with a second group. We hope the participants found it worthwhile and useful.

For our part, we found the experience both enriching and rewarding. The program gave us energy and inspiration, new perspectives and feeling of doing good for the society. Most importantly, it helped dispel some of our preconceived notions, making us reflect on life in a different way and helping us better understand the difficulties others encounter in a world that seems to be changing – certainly from a technology and digital point of view – at breakneck speed.

Some observations that helped us during the training sessions are listed below:

  1. Being honest and open about challenges in the local Finnish context helped the participants relate better to what to expect and how to deal with them in daily life.
  2. Digital literacy today starts with a smartphone and not with a PC! The generation that we were dealing with was much more familiar with the use of technology via their mobile device.
  3. Immigration is a brain gain! People in general come with a vast experience and knowledge, and they may only need an avenue to get started. They were eager to learn and to work towards a better future.

At an overall level we feel that this is an excellent initiative undertaken by Tieto to help people in need - and in an area of IT where Tieto has a significant role to play in Nordic society. Both of us decided to also continue the volunteering with Startup Refugees: we're currently acting as mentors for job-seeking refugees.

Working towards a better tomorrow for all! #Tieto50 #Tietolife #wecare

Co-authors Elisa Liekkilä & Manish Kumar

Manish Kumar
Head Offering Management & Customer Enablement Consulting, Tieto

Manish has close to 15 years of IT industry experience, having worked in different capacities ranging from business consulting to IT service delivery and account management. During this time he has had the privilege of working both with the largest IT services company of India and now with the largest IT services player in Finland. His education is in Sciences with a Master’s in Business Administration.

Author

Manish Kumar

Head Offering Management & Customer Enablement Consulting, Tieto

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