SAP Accelerates Digital Inclusion to Shape the Modern Economy

SAP’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy powers the global economy by building digital skills and accelerating systemic, sustainable change.

How do you bring people with no access to digital technologies or the internet into the digital economy? For one South African social entrepreneur, the answer lay in an innovative franchise model that is providing thousands of people with access to computers, the internet, and other digital technologies.

Ahmed Ismael is the founding director at Siyafunda Community Technology Center (CTC), a South African network of information and communications technology (ICT) community centers. He says the social impact of many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is limited by funding and grants. To avoid dependence on other organizations, he decided to adopt a social enterprise model, which applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in financial, social, and environmental well-being.

Siyafunda CTC locations don’t just run ICT courses for the community, they also provide hardware and software repair services to local businesses, along with web design, hosting, and other office type services that require access to the internet. Profits are invested back into the center, helping ensure long-term success.

Community and Social Enterprise Working Together

“Being a social enterprise gives us the flexibility to change and adapt together with our community partners to ensure our services and programs serve the local community’s social and economic needs as best as possible,” Ismael says. A core part of the success of Siyafunda CTC rests with the strong, mutually beneficial relationships with more than 50 partners from local, provincial, and national government, as well as schools, universities, and private and social organizations.

Like normal businesses, social enterprises generate most of their income through trade, but there are some important differences. Social enterprises have a clear social or environmental mission set in their governing documents. Like Siyafunda, they reinvest their profits back into their social mission.

One of Siyafunda’s founding partnerships is with Africa Code Week, a continent-wide, SAP-led digital literacy and coding skills program. Since its 2015 launch, the initiative has introduced more than 4.1 million young people across Africa to basic coding skills.

In April, SAP helped open the first Siyafunda 4IR STEM Centre, providing practical “touch and feel” experiences to coding, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and cybersecurity digital skills.

The story of the Siyafunda CTC is a powerful example of how the right CSR strategy can truly power opportunity through digital inclusion.

SAP CSR Strategy: Three Pillars

The SAP CSR strategy has evolved over the years. Today, it includes three interconnected pillars that strive to meet the future of social impact aligning directly to the needs of the business and employees.

The first pillar, building digital skills, is comprised of various strategic initiatives from programs like Africa Code Week to unique partnerships with organizations like UNICEF, which develop standardized national curricula and connect the private sector with future talent.

SAP’s ability to truly accelerate systemic, sustainable change lies within its second pillar: accelerating nonprofits and social enterprises to run at their best.

“We are not the experts when it comes to social change,” shares Alexandra van der Ploeg, global head of SAP Corporate Social Responsibility. “That comes from our partners, including foundations, nonprofits, social enterprises, and governments. They are on the ground and experience the problems firsthand. Our job is to evaluate how SAP can make a contribution to the great work already being done so that social impact can be maximized.”

The last pillar of the SAP CSR strategy is connecting employees with purpose. SAP empowers its more than 98,000 employees representing 147 countries to volunteer when and where it matters most to them personally. This often takes the form of supporting strategic digital skills programs and social sector partnerships.  In total, year-round volunteering has resulted in 1.5 million hours of social engagement impacting as many as 4 million lives since 2014.

Building Businesses That Matter

 SAP Executive Board Member Adaire Fox-Martin is fully behind the social enterprise movement, both within and outside the company. In 2016, she founded the SAP One Billion Lives initiative, a social intrapreneurship program, and has strongly advocated for the support of this topic among SAP customers and partners.

“We are proud of the work that SAP employees are leading in partnership with CSR to build business that matters,” Fox-Martin says. “Their ongoing efforts have built capacity for more than 1,000 organizations across 50 countries, impacting millions of lives. But corporate social responsibility isn’t about one team within a company. It’s about harnessing the power of business to solve social issues and applying your core expertise to tackle some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian and environmental issues.”

Van der Ploeg agrees: “We are only a decade away from the universal deadline for the United Nations Global Goals to realize a better world. Based on today’s track record, we won’t achieve these goals until the end of the century. Companies like SAP can accelerate this timeline if we work across organizational divides and build societal impact into business strategy.”

SAP support of social sector partners, especially social enterprises, is growing. For the past 10 years, SAP has worked diligently to add trust and value to this movement. The portfolio has grown beyond one team to include partnerships and programs that range from early-stage innovation and new ventures, to accelerating and scaling mature social enterprises through procurement.

Using SAP Ariba technology, SAP is now helping social enterprises gain access to new markets. “We have come a long way, and we’re confident the best is yet to come, thanks in part to advancing SAP technology offerings, such as our partnership with Social Traders and customer IAG,” says van der Ploeg.

Social Enterprise World Forum 2019

Building on last year’s momentum, SAP is excited that more than 40 ecosystem partners — including makesense, CIIE, PYXERA Global, and We Are Family Foundation — will join them at the Social Enterprise World Forum 2019 in Ethiopia from October 23-25. These social entrepreneurs and intermediaries are some of the world’s leading examples of how to build corporations to realize purpose through shared value, help the world to run better, and sustainably improve lives at a massive scale.


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