One of the major challenges for sub-Saharan African countries in this new decade is to manage the transition to the digital economy
Sylvie Pierrot Alain
Sofrecom’s CSR has been a model for many others to follow. The company’s distinguished approach to social responsibility was recognized at the Telecom Review Excellence Awards ceremony. Claire Khoury, marketing, communication and CSR director, Sofrecom tells us why the company won the Best CSR Initiative and how Sofrecom is contributing to digital inclusion.
First of all, congratulations to Sofrecom for winning this year’s “Best CSR Initiative” award from Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit. How important is this award to you?
This trophy is a recognition by the experts of our business sector, of the commitment of our company to offering responsible and inclusive digital services. It rewards the ability of our teams to combine economic performance and social development to serve our customers.
What is the action plan you have established to make digital an inclusion factor?
We believe that digital technology is a powerful lever for economic, social and environmental development, that’s why we have structured our approach around three commitments: digital strategy including digital capacity building, employment and training for young people and women. They are tightly linked to the mission of Sofrecom, our intervention’s areas and needs, and our clients’ expectations:
a. Support the development of national digital strategies for inclusion and environmental issues
We help implement national digital strategies that meet four complementary objectives:
- Develop regulatory frameworks to effectively support economic and social development ambitions.
- Implement public infrastructure and operators as levers for digital transformation by rethinking strategy, organizations, and operations. The challenge is to create robust and profitable players, able to contribute to the digital expansion.
- Digitize public services by selecting enablers (digital identity, digital payments; sovereign data hosting) and e-services that are most useful for citizens and businesses.
- Deploy financial services and partnership platforms tailored to the needs of citizens and businesses.
In our projects, we ensure the generalization of architectures and network equipment optimized to reduce costs and the final price necessary for profitability, limit the carbon footprint of networks, and minimize Opex related to energy expenses.
b- Contribute to the development of digital skills
Digital is a sector that, again, is growing and offering career opportunities. One of the key challenges for governments is managing the transition to a digital economy. In addition to the barriers to investment and equipment, the most important thing is skills. In this context, we support administrations in thinking about and setting up professional schools dedicated to fiber optic activities open to young people and encouraging women to integrate into a digital profession.
The aim is to provide young people with quality training with short-term employment prospects, and to support the development of the ICT sector in the country. The aim is to create conditions that allow young people to learn a trade within 2 months, and to find a job at the end of their apprenticeship. Furthermore, it means maintaining the specialized professional skills required in the country, supporting the development of fiber optic infrastructure and improving the quality of service.
c. Encouraging employment and integration of young people and women
To support the digital transformation and development of its clients around the world, Sofrecom encourages the recruitment and training of local talent and promotes women’s access to technical and leadership positions. In 2015, Sofrecom was the first entity of the Orange Group to be labeled AFNOR Diversity for its policy of promoting diversity, non-discrimination and professional equality. Sofrecom believes that multi-culturality is a lever to strengthen its integration into local ecosystems and develop partnerships. It is also one of those ways of contributing to the social and economic development of the countries in which it operates. In Morocco and Tunisia, Sofrecom has recruited more than 1,500 young graduates with an average age of 32. 89% telecoms and IT engineers, 42% of whom are women engineers.
In summary, our CSR approach is based on the following fundamentals, defined and applied in all Orange Group entities:
- Offer responsible products and services
- Promote an HR policy that promotes global performance
- Act daily according to immutable principles: Business ethics and anti-corruption, listening to our stakeholders, the commitment of the value chain
It is preceded by a declaration of principle guaranteeing respect for fundamental rights. It takes the form of an Ethics Charter to be shared with all our employees, customers and suppliers.
What are the key challenges and success factors in implementing this policy?
The success of CSR initiatives depends mainly on the mobilization of stakeholders, in particular in the form of voluntary commitments made by stakeholders: managers, employees, customers and partners. Our challenges were to reconcile both economic and social performance issues and to meet the expectations of our teams and customers in terms of commitments.
To support this commitment, we ensured:
- Internal alignment of employees and managers on CSR issues while taking into account their expectations in terms of commitments
- In-house training and awareness of our teams and support for our customers on this issue
- Actively listening to the expectations of our teams and customers to prioritize our actions and plan our various initiatives over time,Support and mobilization of our partners around these issues to maximize the impact of these initiatives and install them in the long term
- Regular communication on the progress of the action plan to reassure and motivate
As a woman, how do you assess women’s skills and talents in the field?
The growing place of technology in all sectors of the economy makes the digital sector a provider of rapidly growing jobs, both in terms of the number and diversity of jobs offered. The dynamism of the sector represents an opportunity for all to flourish. Gender diversity is therefore imperative in a dynamic sector where recruitment and job creation are the most numerous. However, few women turn to training in this field and pursue a career there. Women represent only 33% of employees in the engineering sector and 30% of employees in the digital sector, mainly in support functions such as human resources, administration, marketing or communication. Among computer science and development technicians, 16% are women.
The gendered representations conveyed by society and organizations, the strength of stereotypes, are all factors behind the under-representation of women in the digital professions. According to the study conducted by OPIEC in 2016 with high school students and salaried employees, certain factors play at all times when an orientation decision is made. Among the most important are the influence of the media, the lack of knowledge of the trades, the absence of female role models, and a company life sometimes seen and experienced as difficult.
This trend is also evident in the European Union: in 2015, 57% of all graduates were women, but only 25% graduated in the digital fields and 13% of these graduates work in the digital sector (against 15% in 2011).
Thus, the issue of gender diversity in the digital professions is more than a fashion effect. We are talking about the future of our society. Women make up 50% of the world’s population. Beyond the opportunity for women to join a promising sector that generates employment, growth and career development, it is also an action that is more broadly part of a societal act.
Here, we all have a role to play: parent, teacher, professional, elected representatives, media. The world of tomorrow, to federate widely, must be in the image of citizens in all their diversity. Women, men, geographical and social background….
Focus on fiber optics school in Bénin,
By Sylvie Pierrot Allain – Change Management & Capacity Building Consulting Director
One of the major challenges for subsaharian African countries in this new decade is to manage the transition to digital economy. This requires reliable and available infrastructure with universal, affordable and good quality access to broadband by 2030 (World Bank Moonshot Program).
To achieve these goals there is an urgent need to improve connectivity across Africa: inside the countries, between the countries, and with the rest of the world. Many obstacles remain to be removed in terms of investment, equipment and most important, skills.
Most of African countries are facing the same lack of competencies in the area of infrastructure:
Universities, engineering and technical school address part of the needs, but the basic technical skills for less qualified jobs are missing.
The « école des métiers du numérique » in Bénin is a project resulting of a partnership between the government of Bénin, Campus Numérique de Montereau (a vocational training school for telecommunication networks), and Sofrecom.
The objective is to create the first vocational school dedicated to fiber optic activities and addressing young people with a secondary education level in Bénin. The creation of this school makes it possible to offer quality training with short-term employment perspective for young people, and to support the development of the ICT sector.
It is based on apprenticeship in order to provide students with a hands on experience and practical know how, as a guarantee for their employability: the hiring rate of the students will be one of the main indicators of the success of the School. By a mix of courses in the training center and field training within an enterprise the students are faced with real situations enabling them to assimilate theory by practicing. In France, all sectors combined, the hiring offer rate such a program is 40% compared to 29% for an internship.
The responsibilities entrusted to the apprentice must be the same as for an employee starting on his position, it is not an observation internship but a total immersion in the position that the learner will occupy following his training. For the company, the learner will be an additional resource for their teams.
In this model the enterprise is part of the training process, making it all the more vigilant with the quality of the course and the choice of modules taken by the apprentice. Enterprises are systematically associated with the selection of priority technologies, and selection of the training programs. The trainers maintain permanent contact with the enterprise and the apprentice during the immersion periods.
Read the article in Telecom Review