Find new ways to help the needy

 Find new ways to help the needy

StarHub's donation drive, which allows customers to donate their unused mobile phone talktime, unused data and SMS message allotment, is a refreshing corporate social responsibility initiative ("Digital charity"; last Sunday).

In Singapore, where corporate social responsibility is commonly put into operation as corporate philanthropy, companies are content to either offer grants to community causes, or encourage their employees to volunteer at non-profit organisations and voluntary welfare organisations.

It is not surprising that corporate social responsibility is often perceived as self-serving public relations endeavours.

Companies measure the success of their corporate social responsibility through superficial key performance indicators, such as the amount of money disbursed, the volunteer hours put in by their employees, and the number of beneficiaries they have partnered - yet give little thought to the sustainability or the ultimate outcomes of their programmes.

In contrast, StarHub has identified an underlying challenge - students from low-income households find it hard to plug into the technological infrastructure of schools, for instance - and come up with a solution that ties in neatly with its business operations.

Its 500 beneficiaries may pale in comparison to the 150,000 households here with no computer or Internet access, but the initiative should galvanise the Government and other telcos to follow suit or complement it.

Singapore's prosperity masks the problems of those who have fallen through the cracks, and convinces many that monetary contributions alone are sufficient. However, social change starts with a worthy cause - like bridging the digital divide - before momentum gathers for greater, broader engagement.

Kwan Jin Yao

This article was first published on Oct 26, 2014.
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