Charity is good for IT and business

Balancing social responsibility and commercial return is one of the major challenges facing the financial services sector.

Balancing social responsibility and commercial return is one of the major challenges facing the financial services sector.

That message came across loud and clear from the City IT conference this month.

Social responsibility, whether at the global, national, corporate or personal level is something that organisations cannot afford to ignore. Government pressure is mounting to ensure that IT advances help build an inclusive society, and not leave the poor, elderly, disabled and other disadvantaged groups on the outside.

The City is waking up to these responsibilities. In September, Roger Davis, chief executive of Barclays Business Banking, told a conference organised by the Lord Mayor of London and the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists that ensuring IT systems are accessible to the disabled is "not altruism but pure business common sense".

At the same conference, chairman of the Audit Commission James Strachan urged users not to accept inaccessible IT products and services and if necessary to invoke the Disability Discrimination Act, which comes into force later this year.

A measure of IT professionals' desire to help others can be seen in the IT4Communities scheme, which provides a framework for IT people and charities needing IT help to get together. In this, its first year, nearly 1,500 IT professionals have signed up.

The way IT staff are spreading their skills for the good of their communities is epitomised by 42-year-old Brian Steene. A year ago he gave up his lucrative job at Xerox Global Services to become head of IT at a school in Dorset. As well as improving his quality of life and cutting his commute from 75 miles to 75 yards, Steene's school reaped the benefits: one of his pupils this year was the UK's best performing student at A-level computer science.

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