by Margaret Locher

IT’s Role in Social Responsibility

Apr 01, 20062 mins
IT Leadership

After hurricanes swept the Gulf Coast last summer, Fran Dramis, chief information and e-commerce officer at BellSouth, helped establish three relief centers equipped with computers and phones that victims could use to contact their families. Also under Dramis’s leadership, the company established a disaster-relief fund and encouraged employees to “adopt” an affected family.

Dramis’s community-focused attitude is the reason why Computers For Youth (CFY) chose him as its first CIO of the Year.

“Technology is a critical and underutilized tool for solving many of society’s ills,” says Elisabeth Stock, president of CFY, a New York City–based organization that donates computers to middle-school students from low-income families and teaches them, their teachers and their parents how to use them. Social responsibility among corporate executives used to be something that was expected only from CEOs, Stock says, but the CIO’s role in corporate America has become increasingly important.

Dramis encourages his senior executive peers to promote BellSouth’s e-learning program, a Web-based tutoring program that Dramis hopes will level the education opportunities for underprivileged children. In Florida, more than 21,000 kids have increased their comfort level using technology while learning subjects such as algebra from remote teachers. To Dramis, making sure students have computers and are comfortable using them is an essential way he can give back to the community.

“I’m not Mother Teresa,” he says, but notes that it’s important for children to have access to the latest technology. “The Internet is becoming a place, not just a tool, and especially for kids,” he says. “Schools should be there.

E-learning has the potential to break down the social and economic barriers to success and growth of children.”