Vodafone’s Irish operation has pledged €500k to fund grant-making activities to Irish registered charities as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility programme. As part of the programme, the local operation has begun piloting text-to-speech software for blind people and has developed a system aimed at allowing people to listen live over the internet to dolphins in the Shannon Estuary.
Guided by the Vodafone Group social investment policies, the key areas of focus for the foundation will be the support of non-profit organisations, investment in telemedicine and partnering with environmental and conservation groups to help enrich local communities in which the company operates. As well as this, the aim of the programme is to maximise the benefits that mobile communications can bring.
Vodafone Ireland’s CEO, Paul Donovan, said: “In the months and years to come the Vodafone Ireland Foundation will make social investments that will help people have fuller lives by sharing the benefits of developments in mobile communications technology as widely as possible, by protecting the natural environment and by supporting the local communities in which our customers, employees, investors and suppliers live.”
Vodafone’s chief technical officer, Fergal Kelly, told siliconrepublic.com a board is being established that will assess appropriate charities and social projects going forward.
For the past year Vodafone has been working with Conservation Volunteers Ireland on a nationwide mobile phone recycling scheme and has participated in a national environmental programme aimed at raising awareness about Ireland’s natural environment, entitled Operation Conservation.
In terms of the work Vodafone is conducting with the National Council for the Blind, the company is piloting specially adapted Nokia 9210i handsets with built-in text-to-speech software. Tara Delaney, a Vodafone spokesperson, explained: “We have had five people using the Nokia 9210i with the text-to-speech software over the past month and our aim is to assess its viability and how it will improve their lives. The handsets themselves cost around €1,000 and if the pilot goes well we will donate a number of them with a special tariff to the National Council for the Blind.”
Another project that Vodafone is working on involves tracking the activities of the 40 dolphins that live in and around the Shannon Estuary over the internet. Delaney said: “We plan to deploy special underwater mobile hydrophones that will enable scientists and, in time, students to listen to dolphins communicate with each other.”
The venture will be co-ordinated by marine biologist Dr Simon Berrow of the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation, who has studied the estuary’s bottlenose dolphin population for more than a decade. The development and transmission of the receiving hardware will be carried out in collaboration with oceanographer Brian Holmes, who specialises in hydraulics and maritime research at the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre at University College Cork.
By John Kennedy
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