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Three Ways IBM is Using Technology to Serve the Public Good

By Jennifer Ryan Crozier, President, IBM Foundation & Vice President, IBM Corporate Citizenship

Technologies like AI, blockchain, and cloud are enabling us to make significant progress on many thorny social challenges.

But without thoughtful stewardship about how these powerful new technologies are designed, developed and brought into the world, they can also be disruptive in a negative way.

Companies that are leading the way in developing new technologies must also lead the way in ensuring they are secure, trustworthy, fair, and benefit all people.

Nearly 300 corporate leaders gathered this week at the CECP 2018 Summit: Leading Through Complexity to look at how corporations can be a force for good in society. I had the opportunity share three ways that IBM is working to ensure our technologies serve the public good: through data responsibility, education and skills, and inclusion.

1. Data Responsibility
Any organization that collects and handles data must be a good steward of that data – to protect it from unauthorized access, to be transparent about who owns the data and what it’s used for, and to use it in an ethical manner.

Drawing on our own experience, we’re advising clients on bringing data practices and systems into compliance with the complex requirements of Europe’s GDPR regulations, which are coming into effect in just a few days.

Additionally, we’re investing heavily in developing blockchain solutions to provide trusted record management across a range of issues. For example, following Hurricane Harvey, we’re working with the OneStar Foundation in Texas to develop a blockchain proof of concept to support communities recovering from disaster, by helping to ensure that dollars get to the people who need it.

2. Education & Skills
Global corporations also have a responsibility to make sure that new waves of technology don’t leave anyone behind. We must invest in modern skills training to ensure the global workforce is prepared for the “new collar” jobs this era will create. At IBM, one of our major education reform initiatives is P-TECH (@ptechnetwork). This public education reform model creates a seamless pathway from high school to college, and enables students to earn both their high school diplomas and no-cost associates degrees in STEM, while acquiring valuable workplace experiences.

P-TECH schools now serve nearly 20,000 students in the U.S., primarily from disadvantaged communities, in partnership with more than 450 businesses. Many students come in behind grade level, but on-time graduation rates are 4-5 times the U.S. average for community college students. By this fall, we expect that more than 100 schools will be open, including 20 outside the U.S.

3. Inclusion
Inclusion is core to our DNA as a company. We spoke out against the discriminatory bathroom bill being considered by the Texas legislature last year, and last fall, we brought eight of our Dreamer employees to D.C. to meet with members of Congress and share their stories.

Inclusion also means ensuring that powerful new technologies benefit everyone, especially vulnerable and historically underserved populations. For example, IBM is working with governments and NGOs around the world to disrupt human trafficking. We have provided partners with i2 intelligence analysis software to uncover global hotspots and trends that weren’t being revealed by traditional methods. The software recently helped bust a ring of 32 traffickers in Belgium.

Every day we use data responsibility, education and skills, and inclusion to guide our ethical stewardship as we continue to push the frontiers of technology. What principles guide ethical stewardship for your company?