& cplSiteName &

Vodafone Americas Lays Foundation for Social Change

Sarah Thomas

Mobile holds the key to bringing banking to the unbanked, healthcare to rural areas and opportunities for women who may otherwise be hard to reach. Realizing the full potential of mobile technologies and using it for the good of the world is what brings June Sugiyama to work every day.

Sugiyama is director of the Vodafone Americas Foundation, one of UK-based mobile network operator Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD)'s 27 networks of foundations worldwide, designed to support technology-related programs that impact social change. The Foundation also enlists the help of startups -- many with women at the helm -- to implement new and innovative ideas to make a difference.

They do this through the Wireless Innovation Project (WIP), a yearly competition to promote innovation around using wireless related technology to create a better world. Winners of the competition receive up to $600,000 to develop their ideas. (See Vodafone Americas Names Innovation Contest Finalists.)

Sugiyama caught up with Women in Comms to tell us about some of the WIP winners that have her excited for the future both for women in our industry and women all around the world.

June Sugiyama, Director, Vodafone Americas Foundation
June Sugiyama, Director, Vodafone Americas Foundation

Women in Comms is gearing up for a bigger, better 2017. Join us in our cause to redress the gender imbalance in the comms industry! Visit WiC Online and get in touch to learn more.

Women in Comms: Tell us about your role at Vodafone Americas and the importance of corporate philanthropy.

June Sugiyama: We live in a different world today: business is conducted faster and online; people no longer work in traditional setting at desks and in permanent offices; young people rarely stay at jobs more than two to three years. With all of the changes come new outlets for philanthropy and community engagement. Thus, companies must evolve to stay competitive and interesting as well as provide novel opportunities for employees to be involved in their communities -- volunteer, donate through company matching programs and have pride in their companies as good corporate citizens making a difference through their corporate philanthropy programs.

We’ve tried to be creative and accommodating to the new work style by looking for volunteering opportunities that allow individuals to volunteer on their own time, such as through mentorships and reviewing applications online and concentrating on skills-based volunteering. Also, we’ve been very successful using Kiva as a platform for employees to provide loans online around the world. This kind of program not only provides monetary support but it creates a connection between employees and the social issues around the world they are passionate about.

WiC: How can we use wireless technology solutions to address critical social issues around the world, particularly as it relates to women?

JS: Wireless technology has been extremely successful in addressing critical social issues, particularly for women, who are usually the last to receive social services, education or economic opportunities in more traditional settings. There are over 6 billion mobile subscribers around the world, which means people in all corners of the world have mobile phones. With mobile phones comes the ability to be connected and to have the opportunity to open doors to the rest of the world. Mobile health, for example, can provide critical healthcare through remote diagnosis to people in rural and hard to reach areas where they’ve never had doctors, clinics or hospitals. Banking through mobile provides banking to the unbanked, and the business of mobile money has attributed to robust economic development. Lastly, education through mobile provides reading, writing and creative opportunities to people who were not privy to formal educational settings.

Mobile has provided unique opportunities, especially for women who may not usually be able to access such services in the open public. Now, they can learn and build necessary skills in their own home, receive help in emergency circumstances like domestic violence or rape through the connection of technology, and talk to each other, creating a support network that is brings positive impact both internally and externally.

WiC: What was the catalyst for the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project, and what is your goal with it?

JS: The catalyst for our Wireless Innovation Project (WIP) was our frustration with some of the university programs we encountered. We found that there were very unique and interesting innovations with incredible potential to help impact people’s lives, yet they were not reaching the market. Although things have improved noticeably recently, we found at that time universities were neither collaborative nor cross-disciplinary. While many individual groups may have been hitting the same hurdles, they were not cooperating with each other.

The lack of communication was reasonable given that they were all competing with each other for the same funding. With that in mind, we designed WIP as a competition with specific criteria to find the best wireless innovation to make social impact. We hope to accelerate creative innovations and encourage collaborative impact. Our goal is simple: to find the best wireless innovations and help them reach market, so that they can help people that much faster.

WiC: What technology or innovation have you seen spring from the Wireless Innovation Project that gets you excited for the future?

JS: They are all exciting to me since we choose the ones that, indeed, specifically excite us but things that make a huge dent in some of our basic problems are particularly engaging. For example, the mobile temperature sensor ColdTrace from NextLeaf monitors the cold chain distribution of vaccines. Some vaccines like TB or malaria vaccines need to be refrigerated to be effective. ColdTrace monitors the temperature throughout the vaccine's journey to assure that it is not spoiled, saving hundreds of lives.

Innovations like the mobile microscopes like CellScope from CAL and Cellophone from UCLA are really interesting in that they provide all kinds of options for remote diagnosis, databases for cells, disease and cures as well as transform into handy tools for clinicians and frontline health workers in low-resourced areas.

Lastly, Insight from Inventure provides financial tools for the poor through mobile platforms that offer financial training, banking and even microloans. Insights cofounder, Shivani Siroya, always says that it is a myth that poor people don’t have any money -- as a matter of fact, some of them have multiple jobs, but lack the access to basic infrastructure like banking and financial training.

WiC: What makes you feel optimistic -- or conversely, pessimistic -- about the future for women in comms?

JS: The WIP Winners' limitless creativity really leaves me hopeful and optimistic. They have endless imagination to tackle some of the most challenging problems around the world -- among those, the barriers preventing women to thrive.

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Director, Women in Comms

(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
10/24/2016 | 10:36:24 AM
startup winners
Vodafone Innovation Project is an inspiring competition. They've had some really cool projects come through, and it's great to see many of them spearheaded by women. Watch out for Mentor Mondays with the startup founders in the coming weeks!
Women in Comms Audio
Archived Audio
Twitter Feed
Women's Watercooler
Discussion Boards
December 22, 2017 3:58:57 PM
UN Women HeForShe
October 24, 2017 7:10:11 AM
Better Online Communication Makes Organization Sense
April 27, 2017 1:54:38 PM
Do you know women in tech?
Sarah Thomas
March 5, 2017 12:08:01 PM
Swedish Mansplaining
March 3, 2017 3:24:50 PM
Women's History Month
Sarah Thomas
February 24, 2017 12:15:59 PM
The career-break penalty
Sarah Thomas
February 17, 2017 10:25:33 AM
Risk taking differences
Sarah Thomas
February 17, 2017 9:51:21 AM
Upcoming WiC Events!
Sarah Thomas
Contribute Here
Upcoming Live Events
March 22, 2018, Denver, Colorado | Denver Marriott Tech Center
All Upcoming Live Events
Women in Comms Poll
WiC wants to hear your stories, experiences and impressions of the comms industry.

Take our short survey here!
AppDynamics highlights the tech segments where women are the most prevalent and showcases a few making a big difference in their field.
Women in Comms Video
LRTV Documentaries
The Telecoms.com Podcast: Virtually Interesting

3|14|18   |     |   (0) comments

Iain, Jamie and Scott move on from the rigors of MWC by reflecting on some of the conversations they had in Barcelona about how much progress we have made with NFV. The answer seems to vary wildly according to who you speak to and it seems clear that industry consensus remains elusive. Jamie then talks us through some of the highlights of the next version of ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Matrixx Software Founder: Digital Transformation Lends Itself to Diversification

3|14|18   |   4:00   |   (1) comment

Matrixx Software Founder and VP of Marketing, Jennifer Kyriakakis, explains why digital transformation goes hand-in-hand with diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Jennifer shares how Matrixx Software has made both a priority.
LRTV Interviews
Susan Johnson & Her Career Acceleration in AT&T

2|28|18   |     |   (0) comments

Susan Johnson, SVP Global Supply Chain of AT&T, discusses her leadership strategy and how her background in investment banking prepared her for a career in the telecom industry. Susan also talks about lessons learned from the different roles she has held at AT&T over the course of her career.
LRTV Interviews
MWC 2018: Ovum IDs the IoT Hotspots

2|13|18   |   06:53   |   (2) comments

Ovum's Head of IoT, Alexandra Rehak, uncovers the hot IoT topics for MWC, including LPWAN commercialization, use cases for 5G, the use of artificial intelligence in IoT deployments and more.
Shades of Ray
It's Time to Enter the Leading Lights

2|9|18   |   01:03   |   (0) comments

If your company excelled during the past year, you need to be submitting your entry for this year's Leading Lights awards. Get the full details by clicking on this link.
LRTV Interviews
MWC 2018: Facing the Millennial Challenge

2|7|18   |   03:39   |   (0) comments

Ovum analyst Camille Mendler explains why the tech and mobile industries need to focus on delivering enterprise solutions that can be understood and used by anyone as the millennial generation begins to comprise the majority of the workforce.
LRTV Documentaries
What They Should Be Talking About at Davos

1|25|18   |   01:54   |   (0) comments

World leaders, billionaire business execs and tech industry leaders are at Davos for the World Economic Forum. Unfortunately for them, we couldn't make it, but, as Dan Allen contends, two important news stories from Spain this week demonstrated the growing tech-jobs disconnect now common the world over and highlighted what those at the forum should be ...
LRTV Documentaries
Cisco at CES: Creating the Self-Managing Network

1|16|18   |   05:44   |   (0) comments

Forget the self-driving car, Cisco is aiming for the self-managed network – one where machine learning and automation propel both innovation and efficiency. At CES, Cisco SVP and GM of the service provider business Yvette Kanouff talks about how operators can transition toward more automated operations, and also why the annual consumer electronics show is ...
LRTV Interviews
What Cable's Ethernet Gains Mean

12|21|17   |     |   (0) comments

NEW YORK, 11/30/2017 – Vertical Systems Research Director Erin Dunne examines the impact of cable's continuing share gains in the Ethernet services market and entrance into the SD-WAN market.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Boingo & Sprint: Take Challenges Head-On

12|20|17   |   07:49   |   (0) comments

PRAGUE -- Lauren de la Fuente, vice president of marketing and communications at Boingo Wireless, and Terri Reintjes, director of architecture strategy at Sprint, reflect on how their experience as women in the telecom industry has changed over the last 30 years and where there's still room for improvement -- whether it's in supporting more diverse teams or ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Skilled Women Can Fuel Tech Growth

12|4|17   |   04:36   |   (1) comment

LONDON, 12/4/2017 – There are skill shortages in many emerging technology areas, such as artificial intelligence, notes Carolyn Dawson, managing director of the TMT unit for KNect 365, an Informa business. Attracting and training more women to the tech field will help the industry grow faster and better explore a broader range of possibilities. Dawson heads the ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Sigma's Michel: Digital Economy Demands Inclusion

11|28|17   |   10:46   |   (0) comments

In a digital economy, a company's success is based on its relationship with the end user and the experience that customer has in using a product or service, says Sigma Systems CTO Catherine Michel, speaking as a panelist at Light Reading's Women in Communications luncheon in London earlier this month. A male-dominated environment will miss out on key aspects of ...