Our friends at the UN Foundation (disclaimer) pass along a story that appeared in the World Food Progamme newsletter Wavelength about an Australian Vodafone employee who volunteered with the UN to provide ICT consulting on projects in three African countries.  

When the opportunity to make a ‘world of difference’ presented itself, it was too great for Salma Farouque, a solutions designer at Vodafone Australia, to ignore. “When I saw the advertisement, I thought, wow, what an amazing opportunity to give my services to the humanitarian community”.

After responding to the advertisement, and enduring a rigorous interview process, Salma was selected to become one of four Vodafone employees placed for one year with the UN World Food Programme (WFP). The placement is part of Vodafone’s ‘World of Difference’ programme that to date has made it possible for 168 individuals around the world to work for periods ranging from two months to one year with the charity of their choice.

With funding from the United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Foundation, Salma has spent the last eight months at WFP providing IT consulting for the One UN projects in Mozambique, Tanzania and Rwanda.

“For Vodafone, the customer is always number one. We always think about what the customers want and develop fully integrated solutions to satisfy their demands. In many ways, that is what we are doing with One UN – we are working out the best solutions and package of services that we can deliver to the different UN agencies in each country.”

Salma went to Mozambique in September and Tanzania in November to provide technical support to the One UN project teams. “It was great to be able to use what I had experienced and learnt in Mozambique and move across into Tanzania, transferring information to the next project.”

In each country, Salma works as part of the WFP team with the ICT Working Groups. The Working Groups consist of representatives from various UN agencies.

“One UN means that everyone is working together to deliver as one. UN agencies are working collaboratively from the ICT perspective in Mozambique and Tanzania so it was very rewarding to be part of that team.”

Salma has also visited Rwanda to present to the Working Group what is being done in other countries.

“It is not possible to deliver the same services in every country,” said Salma. “While the framework may be the same, local conditions for that particular country and what services they need, differs.”

“Each project has different challenges, such as where each of the offices is located. Rwanda, for example, is the land of a thousand hills, which obviously makes it more difficult when establishing wireless connectivity. Everything depends on the local conditions.”

“It has been a fantastic experience to work at the grass roots level of the project, to learn how it is being run and meet all the people involved at that level. Working with the national staff and touching the pulse of the project has been a wonderful insight into ICT for a humanitarian purpose.”

Having worked with Vodafone since 2002, Salma is well acquainted with the company and its business around the world. “It is a wonderful organisation. It is always very supportive of its employees and provides so many different opportunities.”

“I am very grateful to WFP, Vodafone and the UN Foundation for this opportunity. This has been the most amazing and enriching experience of my life.”

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