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3/26/2008
06:45 PM
Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney
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IT And The Global Village

"The toughest job you'll ever love," according to Lillian Carter, a tagline used for recruiting by the Peace Corps in the '70s and '80s, herself a volunteer in India at age 66. A forward-thinking IT vendor has picked up on this international service model and here's why it makes great sense.

"The toughest job you'll ever love," according to Lillian Carter, a tagline used for recruiting by the Peace Corps in the '70s and '80s, herself a volunteer in India at age 66. A forward-thinking IT vendor has picked up on this international service model and here's why it makes great sense.The vendor is IBM; its program is called the Corporate Service Corps, wherein IBM employees can volunteer to share their expertise in technology and business in developing countries to boost growth and prosperity. The company reports that 5,000 employees have applied in the last three weeks.

Why do I like this idea so much? First of all, I'm a little biased -- a study abroad program I did in Brazil many years ago was the single, smartest thing I ever did for myself as an undergrad. I also was lucky enough to work in France for a few years in the mid '90s.

In both cases, I stumbled my way through the language and local customs to make known my basic needs and wants. Eventually I got to the point where I could crack (lame) jokes. All that was a nano-micro contribution to building the so-called global village. But it also struck me that this is indeed how people connect across cultures -- in small ways that are often inelegant and may not make very compelling stories.

My firm belief is that both sides in this sort of interaction benefit immensely. We don't all live alike, or think alike. There's lots of different ways to do things, whether it's making dinner or accessing the Internet. There's no better way to appreciate what you have and what you don't know than experiences like these.

I hope IBM improves the quality of life everywhere these volunteers land. I hope they provide technology and education in places where it otherwise wouldn't be available. And I hope each volunteer keeps their eyes and ears and hearts wide open to the possibilities around them. That's why they call these things "exchanges."

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