One of the most memorable and productive activities I have been fortunate enough to engage in during 2013 has been our board’s work in setting IEEE’s strategic priorities. The work brought out the best in our differing perspectives, unique backgrounds, and individual insights.
We recognized immediately the value inherent in what we had done, for we—as IEEE members and volunteers—have been sharing our views with one another informally throughout our careers. Our passion for our profession and all it offers brings us together to exchange ideas, critique approaches, and undertake new initiatives. In recognition of that, we created an IEEE strategic priority that calls on all of us to “expand nimble, flexible, disbandable IEEE communities, allowing individuals from all around the world to share, collaborate, network, debate, and engage with one another.”
This may be one of our easiest priorities to implement, for it is at the core of much of what we do. Consider, for example, the call to action in my June column. I asked members to work in concert to identify “disruptive” trends and activities that could impact IEEE in the coming years—a request that requires individuals to collaborate and debate and engage one another, activities plainly in keeping with this priority.
We have seen this occur at both the macro and micro levels. Earlier this year, I led a delegation that visited Zambia, Kenya, and the African Union in Ethiopia to identify opportunities for IEEE to aid professionals in those countries as they seek to increase engineering education capacity nationwide. The preparatory work for this initiative drew on the knowledge and expertise of IEEE members and strong volunteer leadership in many sections, IEEE’s top-level leadership, and professional staff support from across the organization, as well as a newly formed Ad-Hoc Committee on Africa Activities.
Our goal was to determine ways in which IEEE can aid in increasing engineering capacity in Africa, using to our advantage the local IEEE volunteer strength and experience in Zambia and Kenya. We knew that increasing engineering capacity would mean more graduates with engineering degrees, more lifelong learning opportunities for existing graduates, and a stronger presence in preuniversity education. Our combined efforts, with different emphases, enhanced not only these areas but others as well. Our mutual efforts at the macro level had begun to yield a picture; more detail, however, would be added only through work and networking at the local level.
From a number of interactions and discussions with volunteer leaders and key professional engineering, business, and national and regional organizations, a picture of IEEE’s future in Africa is emerging. That future will undoubtedly be country-specific because of the diversity of economic readiness within the countries of Africa. That future will also require varying levels of focus on, among other initiatives, expanding our technical communities, extending programs like TISP and EPICS in those countries, and increasing the reach and collaborative effect of our technical journals and magazines to educational institutions. Much work lies ahead, and the details will require the assistance and participation of nimble, flexible, and collaborative IEEE communities across the world, focused on Africa and its future.
At no time before has communication and collaboration been easier. At no time has it been more extensively applied for improving the human condition. When members, volunteers, and professional staff collectively focus on a matter of concern, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished. One hundred years ago, collaboration and networking helped chart a course for the electrification of cities and towns around the world. Slightly more than 50 years ago, the first planar semiconductor integrated circuit appeared, and within five years the exponential growth of the Information Age was launched. I, for one, cannot wait to see where our combined efforts will take us.
The possibilities that arise when we work together are many. Through collaborative efforts, the obstacles we encounter will be few. Our history is rooted in partnerships, and I believe that we will find our future there as well. Some of our colleagues have already begun to write that future, and I urge all of us to join in these efforts.
IEEE President and CEO