What Lenovo’s Work For Humankind Initiative Says About Hybrid Work And Community Impact
Today Lenovo shares the results of The Work for Humankind initiative that set out to bring high-speed connectivity solutions to a remote community and help advance its education, healthcare, and ability to protect the island’s precious ecosystem.
In December of 2021, Lenovo, in collaboration with the Chilean Government and the Robinson Crusoe Island Conservation and community, launched the Work for Humankind initiative that brought together 16 chosen volunteers from around the world to work in one of the most remote locations in the world while also positively impacting the local community.
The initiative stemmed from the data that emerged from a study by Lenovo, which ran across 15,000 people in 10 different countries, pointing at the increased desire among Millennials and Gen Zers for both flexible work and community impact. The data revealed that more than three out of four Gen Z and Millennials feel more productive, creative, and inspired when working remotely. It also shines a light on the younger workforce’s mindset. It strives to make a positive difference no matter where they’re working from, as 86% of Gen Z surveyed see the importance of drawing attention to and supporting the local community they’re working from in areas like environmental and social issues.
The volunteers were chosen by the Island Conservation and the Robinson Crusoe community because of their skillsets that ranged from design to technology, sustainability, and biodiversity. Since the volunteers arrived in April of 2022, they continued their work and studies from the Lenovo Technology Hub equipped with devices and newly deployed high-speed internet. At the same time, they used Lenovo’s devices and technology offerings to accelerate local conservation efforts. Before Lenovo’s Work for Humankind project, Island Conservation’s staff involved in the monitoring of critically endangered species such as the Pink Footed Shearwater and 11 vulnerable tree species in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago had to retrieve data by hand from 70 cameras across the island. They hiked tens of kilometers over arduous ground, placed the data on a hard drive and sent it off the island on the bi-monthly plane for processing and manual classification on mainland Chile. The process took three to four months longer than it does now with the technology Lenovo provided. The improved internet speeds coupled with the AI edge server capabilities have allowed conservationists to significantly speed up the data processing time and effectively analyze detection events from cameras within days instead of months. Accessing data remotely from edge site locations, often uncrewed and challenging to reach, was particularly beneficial. The deployment of Lenovo’s ThinkEdge SE450 Edge Server allows approximately 415,000 photos to be processed in a given day – more than double the speed of the previous setup. The time and cost savings does not stop there, though. Using the server’s AI and processing capabilities to analyze pictures locally means that only the most relevant images are now transferred via satellite for further classification and evaluation by their mainland-based team.
“Within months of first connecting this remote island community to advanced technology, and a group of passionate individuals, we have already seen technology’s significant impact on Robinson Crusoe Island — speeding up their precious conservation work by 100%. This is the power of smarter technology for all,” said Emily Ketchen, Vice President and CMO of Intelligent Devices Group at Lenovo. “Our work is not over, though, as Lenovo is committed to ensuring our impact is positively felt for years to come.”
Over the coming months, a local community-led team will use the combination of technology and quantitative modeling set out by Work for Humankind to deliver data-driven conservation outcomes. And the benefit does not stop with the conservation efforts. All of the workspace technology will remain on the island for community use. The Lenovo tech hub will migrate to the local library to provide residents with access to new educational and digital tools. Over the next five years, the hub will be managed by the municipality to advance long-term economic sustainability and growth opportunities. The island will also continue to enjoy high-speed connectivity with internet speeds up to 200 Mbps. Upgrading from 1 MB to 200 means going from simply being able to browse the web to easily being able to connect and collaborate remotely via video conferences.
Of course, leaving the more than 100 devices behind could be a blessing and a curse without the proper support. So, Lenovo is also donating US$100,000 for its tech hub maintenance, ongoing project support, and continual internet access for vital services to improve healthcare and education.
This is Lenovo’s third initiative under the Work for Humankind umbrella. In 2019, Lenovo partnered with Starlight Children’s Foundation to show the role Virtual Reality can play in reducing pain for hospitalized children. It would be easy to brush off the Work for Humankind initiative in Robinson Crusoe Island as a feel-good initiative that grabs headlines. Doing so, however, misses two critical learnings that inspired and fueled the effort.
First and foremost, the data from Lenovo’s study should be an alarm bell for any organization looking to attract or retain young talent without offering flexible working practices and technologies to empower it. Nearly 80% of respondents say “Working from Anywhere” would improve their personal relationships and four in five people aged 18-40 think working from anywhere benefits society, communities, employers, and employees. Considering our dependence on technology during the pandemic, it is no surprise that 67% of Gen Zers and 66% of Millennials believe their current technology has allowed them to work more flexibly, increase productivity and reach their full potential. Looking ahead, there is excitement about how much tech can continue to improve our working conditions, with 77% of respondents being excited about new, emerging technology that will make it easier to “Work from Anywhere” effectively.
This younger generation of workers is also much more community conscious than previous generations and wants to make an impact directly and through their employer. Sixty-eight percent of Gen Zers and 67% of Millennials deem giving back and positively impacting the local community as ‘very important.’ Furthermore, 91% of Millennials say it’s highly important to stimulate the local economy when “Working from Anywhere.”
The other learning is, of course, the impact technologies that some take for granted every day, such as high-speed internet, can have in locations that are poorly connected. Sadly, you do not have to travel all the way to Chile to find the need. According to 2021 data by the US Census Bureau, 27.6 million American households still don’t have home internet and over a quarter-million households use dial-up. Lenovo’s work in Robinson Crusoe Island shows, yet again, that connectivity is the bedrock of digital transformation. The connectivity divide will significantly worsen the digital divide and rob individuals of education, job opportunities, and ultimately of a better quality of life unless the public and private sectors come together, as seen in the Work for Humankind.
Disclosure: The Heart of Tech is a research and consultancy firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this column. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this column.