IEEE is focusing on the community in Africa. Which is your vision if elected 2018 IEEE President-Elect?
Our colleagues in Africa constitute one of the largest scientific and professional communities that is still significantly underserved by IEEE. We started to converge efforts to address this situation, but there is still a lot to do. Africa has a huge potential for economic development: technology can greatly contribute to boost the future of people in this continent.
With our extraordinary people, especially the ones in Africa, I will focus on creating a personalized offer for every individual in our scientific and professional community in Africa, by leveraging on the opportunities developed worldwide and conceiving specific solutions to address the specific needs of this community. Listening to our colleagues in Africa, analyzing the local needs, and identifying effective solutions all together, I will work with all Boards and organizational units catalyzing our efforts in following main areas:
- Expand technical activities, communities, and standards in emerging technologies, multi-disciplinary areas, areas which are broadly using technologies in the IEEE field, and areas for which there are emerging needs for technology, applications, and standards.
- Develop more practical knowledge to solve real-world problems and use standards, including methodologies, guidelines, best practices, and successful cases.
- Introduce a recommendation system on a comprehensive platform to facilitate identification of knowledge, products, services, and volunteering opportunities according to the profiles of each individual, by taking into account her/his area of work, her/his recent searches, and the searches of people with similar interests.
- Extract fundamental and advanced knowledge from the technical material already available, by knowledge discovery approaches and aggregating this material, for example, into overviews, tutorials, and webinars.
- Expand the online continuing education activities and the educational material to support local activities, both in the academy and the industry.
From a technical perspective, I envision to increase knowledge dissemination of fundamental and advanced knowledge, through webinars, conferences, technical meetings, continuing education opportunities, and specialized networking. The technical areas that should be specifically addressed include topics of specific interest in the African community, encompassing, e.g., power and energy, information and communication technologies, manufacturing, environmental management, and emerging technologies and standards.
From the perspective of continuing education, I think that it will be essential to enhance the access to knowledge both at fundamental and advanced level, in order to support technology innovation and economic development in Africa. Sharing teaching and educational materials at all educational levels, including academia, will facilitate the creation of courses and, consequently, the dissemination of knowledge. Distinguished lectures of local, national, regional, and international experts could contribute in technology visibility but mainly in global networking of the local communities with experts.
Networking is another essential aspect that should be significantly expanded and supported, especially during technical meetings and conferences, both at local level as well as across Africa and internationally. This approach will contribute to share experiences and knowledge as well as to create opportunities for cooperation, so as to boost the career development as well as the overall economy.
Mentoring could be a significant aspect associated to networking, especially for the young generations. Mentoring at technical level as well as on soft skills and professional development will significantly contribute to support the coming generations of technologists and industry leaders.
For membership, I believe that it is essential to identify multi-tier membership models whose fees are affordable everywhere in Africa and whose products and services are tailored on the specific needs of African members, possibly with rewards for volunteers and frequent users, and more caring for the financial burden and its concentrated impact when individuals are transitioning between positions or become unemployed or retired.
This approach will allow many more people to join IEEE since the financial burden will be more proportional to the average income and the membership offer will contain items more valuable to each individual in his/her daily job.
Public visibility will also contribute to increase the awareness about engineering and its value for the society in general. In particular, will help in making more appreciated our profession in the IEEE field. This visibility will increase the attractiveness to engineering for the young generations and, consequently, will foster the growth of the experts and professionals who will be vital for the future of Africa. IEEE can contribute with public speeches and workshops, whenever the local communities will feel appropriate.
Cooperation allows for exploiting synergies and complementing competences. We should foster cooperation among the global organizational units in IEEE and the local units in Africa, as well as all units across Africa, especially the ones in areas with similar needs and characteristics. Besides, further opportunities should be promoted with national scientific and professional associations. Alliances with the United Nations, foundations, and other institutions could also significantly help in achieving the common goals for the benefit of the scientific and professional community and all people in Africa.
For industry professionals in Africa, in general, I envision also the following fundamental strategic actions:
- Create more technology surveys and technology trend analysis.
- Expand data/algorithms repositories, data analytics and mining tools to facilitate experimentation and technology innovation in industrial processes and products.
- Introduce a recommendation system to create personalized continuing education programs, according to the specific background of individuals and their respective needs, goals and aspirations.
- Support continuing education plans, possibly with certifications.
- Create a repository/directory of expertise and competence profile of industry professionals with possible certifications.
- Expand the networking opportunities by establishing specialized forums on advanced topics as well as emerging technologies, applications, and standards, to facilitate circulation of knowledge, recent experiences, and best practices.
- Enhance local people networking with local specialized groups, maker events, and competitions.
- Expand the advanced material on career development, soft skills training, management, leadership, and entrepreneurship.
- Expand the mentoring programs to address not only career development, but also discussion of technology advancement and emerging topics.
- Expand the recognition of excellence, especially in technology, product development, engineering practice, and industry management.
Among industry professionals, young professionals in Africa deserve special attention since they have specific needs, in addition to those of any other industry professionals. Specific additional actions can be mainly directed to expand communication and management skills, networking opportunities among young professionals (especially across Societies, Technical Councils, and Sections, and in multi-disciplinary and emerging areas), and attention on young professionals in networking opportunities at conferences and other events. We should also ensure a pervasive presence in all IEEE groups to bring young professionals’ views and aspirations in all decision processes, ensuring they have impact in IEEE.
In order to retain the interest of African students in IEEE after they graduate and tangibly show the value proposition for young professionals, students who are about to graduate should be allowed to taste at least part of the offer made to young professionals.
Entrepreneurs are a particular group of industry people with additional specific needs, mainly directed to support entrepreneurship. I envision more support tailored on the needs of African entrepreneurs with educational activities on entrepreneurship skills and practice, specific networking opportunities to better learn from role models and peers, networking opportunities to enter in touch with experts of the various areas relevant to them for possible collaboration, mentoring, and funding.
Women professionals in the academy and the industry deserve specific additional attention to ensure equal opportunities in the working place as well as more diversity for addressing industrial problems in a more comprehensive way. I envision further specific support for women professionals in early career development, mentoring, networking opportunities, awareness in industry and the general public about equal opportunities and diversity in the work place in the engineering field. We should also ensure a pervasive presence of women professionals in all IEEE groups to bring their views and aspirations in all decision processes, ensuring they have impact in IEEE.
Actual specific activities should be identified together with people in Africa, since the most appropriate solutions depend on the specific needs and aspirations of the local professional community.
Even though the list of envisioned activities is long, it is worth noting that different IEEE groups are involved so that many activities can be addressed in parallel and synergies exploited in coordinated collaborative efforts across the entire IEEE.
The actual initiatives should be anyway analyzed also on the bases of the available financial and human resources. Specific additional funding could be envisioned to boost the activities and the support to the scientific and professional community. To this purpose also cooperation and synergies with non-IEEE entities should be broadly explored and promoted, in particular with international foundations and institutions, including, e.g., the United Nations and the World Bank.
Similar approaches, defined with each local community, should be adopted also in the other underserved geographical areas to ensure that IEEE will serve the entire scientific and professional community around the world, supporting the global economic and social development for the benefit of the entire humanity.