By Shinichi Otsu
Submitted by IBM
IBM believes in the power of technology and innovation to drive climate solutions, especially for the communities and organizations most impacted by climate change and environmental challenges. At the center of this work is also a commitment to volunteerism, allowing inspired IBMers to combine their talent and skills with passion and purpose.
Through the IBM Sustainability Accelerator, a pro-bono social impact program, IBM volunteers donate their time, energy and expertise to help create lasting impact in communities around the world. And Takahito Motonaga is one IBMer making a difference in the community where he grew up: Miyakojima City, Okinawa, Japan.
Making a difference in a remote community
Miyakojima City is located southwest of Okinawa, Japan, on the Miyako Islands, far from the mainland. In October 2022, this remote community became the focus of an IBM Sustainability Accelerator clean energy project aimed at addressing the complex energy challenges it faces.
The community relies on external sources for most of its energy supply, which could result in an increased costs to residents. Additionally, Miyakojima lies directly in the path of intense typhoons every year. These extreme and unpredictable weather events can topple the island’s utility infrastructure, resulting in damaging power outages, financial impacts and property loss.
Born and raised on Miyako Island, IBMer Takahito Motonaga lived in Miyakojima City for 18 years. Takahito can vividly remember a typhoon that had an impact on his childhood.
“I suffered a power outage caused by a large typhoon for about a week when I was in elementary school,” he says. “The strong winds toppled utility poles, trees and parked cars all over the island. Various facilities were without power, and supplies from outside the island were also cut off, so we were unable to buy food. As electricity and gas were not available at home, we spent about a week using candles and taking cold showers. When I experienced the inconvenience of living without things that I normally take for granted, I realized that our lives heavily depend on energy and other infrastructure.”
As a result, Takahito focuses on how he can help address similar problems. “This may be influenced by my background of growing up on an island,” he says. “Through my work, I would like to contribute to solving such issues in local communities.”
Takahito is an IT specialist with IBM Systems Engineering, with a primary focus on designing and developing web applications. He joined IBM in 2015. Today, he also serves as the squad leader for the IBM Sustainability Accelerator’s clean energy project in Miyakojima City, where the team is working to develop an energy forecasting model. This model aims to improve the community’s self-sufficiency in clean, renewable energy.
“My role is to bring individuals with various specialized skills from IBM’s Technology, Consulting, Systems Engineering and Digital Services divisions to form a team, set goals to work toward, and lead the team” Takahito says. “I believed it would give me a unique opportunity to use IT skills I have obtained through my work and tackle challenges in the community where I was born and raised. I felt this was a great mission for me to fulfill.”
An opportunity to engage
Through the IBM Sustainability Accelerator, Takahito works closely with the community where he grew up, using local perspectives to strengthen his team’s approach to the project. The Miyakojima Island project team frequently engages with local stakeholders who, like Takahito, deeply understand the energy issues facing the island.
“Sustainability issues are often complex, created by a variety of factors,” he says, yet he recalls “the importance of understanding various aspects of an area and considering the heart of issues.” Working with colleagues, local citizens and officials from around the world is an important opportunity for IBMer volunteers to hone their cultural and marketplace literacy, deepening their societal engagement and possibly a career trajectory.
Discussing highlights of the Miyakojima Island project so far, Takahito says, “I realized that among IBM employees, there are many highly motivated people who are willing to volunteer and actively participate in volunteer activities to solve social issues. I am very happy to have been able to work with them as a team.
“Many of the members voluntarily identify necessary tasks and proactively take actions, considering what must be done to solve the energy issues and what they can do by leveraging their expertise. Many of them are very ambitious and have high aspirations to work on the island. Being able to work with such highly motivated and talented people is my favorite part of this project.”
Part of a lasting legacy
At IBM, volunteering and giving are core values. Today, IBM has a goal to deliver 4 million volunteer hours by 2025, and IBM is proud to keep connecting enthusiastic employees with opportunities to get involved in their communities and pursue their own passions and purpose through the Sustainability Accelerator.
“I believe that it is socially meaningful for a large company with a long history like IBM to volunteer through a program like the Sustainability Accelerator, because it allows us to help those who really need it,” says Takahito. “These efforts contribute to the relief and development of society, and strengthen ties with the community, allowing employees who participate in the program to grow—and that is very valuable. Continuously making such efforts is important in a society where sustainability perspectives are also becoming increasingly important.”
Like many IBMer volunteers, Takahito encourages colleagues to get involved. “The IBM Sustainability Accelerator is an activity in which you can use your skills and experience to solve local issues and contribute to society. You will have the opportunity to collaborate with employees with diverse knowledge and skills in other units within the company and gain a broader perspective on social issues,” he says.
IBM volunteers will be invited to participate in the next cohort of the IBM Sustainability Accelerator, following a new RFP to be announced in 2024.
Innovation – joining invention and insight to produce important, new value – is at the heart of what we are as a company. And, today, IBM is leading an evolution in corporate citizenship by contributing innovative solutions and strategies that will help transform and empower our global communities.
Our diverse and sustained programs support education, workforce development, arts and culture, and communities in need through targeted grants of technology and project funds. To learn more about our work in the context of IBM's broader corporate responsibility efforts, please visit Innovations in Corporate Responsibility.
More from IBM