Briefing talks to Didier Philippe about how HP is using a community-based programme to improve its service offering to the four billion people living in emerging markets, while delivering clear social benefits in the process.
Tell us about the i-community programme?
It is one of a number of ‘e-inclusion’ initiatives that we’ve been developing since 2000. The goal of the overall programme is to help people access social and economic opportunities through the platform of information and communications technology (ICT).
The broad aim of the i-community scheme is to help the social development of people in their local communities, with part of the scheme providing specific communities with ICT infrastructure and training in ICT literacy. HP then works very closely with partners in these communities to ensure they have the skills to use and adapt the new technology to their own particular needs.
What results have you seen?
The beauty of technology, which you see clearly in the i-community project, is that things can progress in so many different directions. Through the scheme, we’ve already seen solutions being developed for eye testing, telemedicine, internet connectivity in local schools and hospitals, e-learning by satellite, micro-lending, agriculture services etcetera.
In South Africa, for example, the i-community has decided to work on developing an enhanced solution for pumping water, thereby ensuring better sanitation, water supply and waste management. The HP i-community project in India also has a project, developed in partnership with some non-profits, local government and ourselves, to automate personal records and provide electronic access to government services. The community can now apply for social services like aid or loans in seconds, when previously it would have taken weeks or months.
Do i-communities provide any benefits for HP?
Yes, lots. In many ways, the i-communities are like a large research and development eco-system for us. If we as a technology company are going to create applicable products and services for people in emerging markets, then how better than to invite them to connect with our technology and see how they apply it to their own specific needs? This is the driving force – the fact that it’s coming from them, not from someone else.
All this information that we’re learning – about the way people behave, how users interact with our product portfolio, the differing needs in emerging markets – all these we bring back to our labs. We have a special team working on emerging market solutions, which tries to then instill these insights within HP so that we can better design our products and services for these markets.
Are we going to see some exciting new technology emerging?
This isn’t the sort of initiative that is going to invent a new chip, for example. It’s all very much more application-orientated. This is vital for us in the IT implementation industry, which is less about selling products nowadays and more about helping customers improve the way they use them. By getting close to our customers in this way, we can better understand the processes they’re using and therefore be in a better position to improve these. It works both ways, though. The programmes also offer an example to our customers as to how our technology can be put to use. As a result of our experiences there, we can also go away and creatively adapt or modify the technology in line with the i-community’s recommendations.
Any final comments?
To work successfully, a project like this must be focused and able to deliver to the community something they can use. The ultimate goal for us in terms of e-inclusion is not solely about increasing HP’s market, but is also about giving people the potential to improve their social and economic welfare by offering the skills and technology that lead to jobs, as well as the right mindset to embrace these opportunities.
Brief biog: Didier Philippe
Director of HP e-inclusion for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
A qualified aeronautical engineer, Didier has undertaken a range of different roles during his 24 years at HP. Appointed to his current role in June 2004, he is responsible for driving the company’s efforts to bridge the digital divide within Europe, Middle East and Africa.
HP’s initiatives in this area also include the Digital Villages programme and various education-related schemes. There are currently three i-communities in operation: in Kuppam, India; Mogalakwena in South Africa; and Houston, USA.
Didier’s brief also sees him taking responsibility for HP’s extensive philanthropy portfolio for the EMEA.
A French national, he lives in Geneva with his wife and four children