KPMG Insider Alumni Interview – Connecting China’s Children

Issue 10, 2014-12-3

KPMG Photo

Jacky Chu, an ex-KPMG manager, was inspired by KPMG China’s community involvement. In this interview, he shares how he has carried on this important work, and his hope to create a better world one school at a time through projects like ‘Pad for Hope’. -- By Wahid Lui

Can you tell us a bit about your history with KPMG?

After working in management consulting, I joined KPMG in 2005 when the firm was setting up a new business line, BPS. I later transferred to T&R in
2007, before leaving the firm in 2011 to explore new opportunities at a Japanese venture capital firm.

 

What community work were you involved in before ‘Pad for Hope’?

My involvement started with activities organised by KPMG China’s CSR department, which included helping migrant workers and setting up KPMG-sponsored schools in Gansu. Later, I became even more involved when I joined the CSR board as a Social and Environmental Action Team (SEAT) member (SEAT is a group that helps drive KPMG China’s employee involvement programme). KPMG truly nurtured my interest in helping the community and inspired me to initiate projects such as Pad for Hope (PFH).

 

What is PFH and what was the inspiration behind the initiative?

The 21st century is dominated by the web and easy access to information, but there is an emerging problem – the widening gap between rural areas and cities in terms of accessibility to information technology. This disparity is further exacerbated by the uneven distribution of educational resources and the rising number of migrant parents leaving their kids behind so they can look for jobs in the city.

PFH hopes to reduce this disparity.

In addition to providing internet access to schools in rural and mountainous regions in China, we also provide them with the hardware to access this newly gained information in the form of iPads – hence the name of the programme. The iPads come with a whole suite of educational applications and materials to further facilitate self-learning in regions where there is often a shortage of teachers and resources are limited.

The beauty of the programme is that we make use of e-waste – i.e. older hardware that people are trading in for newer models. These products, which are perfectly functional, are donated to children who would otherwise have no access to such technology. With online education booming in China over the past two to three years, this programme comes at a good time to harness new tools to address the imbalance in teaching resources.

 

What was the greatest challenge you faced when implementing this programme?

Our biggest challenge was communication. It was very hard to understand what schools needed because they did not understand the technology themselves. It was not until we were on-site that we discovered that despite the government’s ‘village internet initiative (村村通)’, some schools in the mountains did not have access to 3G networks. We needed to negotiate with local providers to gain such connectivity, as most of
our hardware depended on it.

It was also a problem finding dedicated teachers in schools since many of them naturally wanted to build careers in the cities. This is why iPads are a good tool here since pupils can learn independently on these platforms with little or no guidance.

 

In May, you joined our CSR mission to the KPMG Fang Niu Chang Hope Primary School to donate iPads and set up a Wi-Fi network. You also taught the teachers and students how to use this technology. What was the most memorable part of this trip?

What struck us most was the children’s discipline. They also had an ingrained respect for teachers, possibly because teachers provide their window to the outside world.

We thought the kids would need more time to learn how to use the iPads, but that was not the case at all. They picked up on how to work them very quickly, which was promising.

 

When will you consider this mission to be ‘accomplished’? Do you have any ultimate goals you hope to achieve?

The project is still in its infancy. Although we emphasise independent learning, we still need teachers to guide kids and nurture their self-study skills. Our next phase will be to find teachers who are technologically savvy enough to be those guides. Later down the road, we hope to set up an online teaching centre in Shanghai to deliver real-time online classes that provide rural communities with a more comprehensive curriculum.
What advice do you have for corporations and individuals who want to get involved in community work?

My experience with crowdfunding campaigns showed me that a lot of people in Hong Kong and China have the resources and want to help with various issues – they just do not know who to trust.

I think corporations should set up dedicated CSR departments, much like the one at KPMG China, to coordinate efforts and get people involved. It is often difficult to reach those in need, but company programmes and initiatives can remove such barriers.

You should not be afraid to take part in or start your own initiatives. Your efforts, however small, do make a difference, and like the butterfly effect, can sometimes spark change beyond your wildest imagination.
For info on Pad for Hope:
http://padforhope.com, or http://facebook.com/padforhope.
Want to help?

To donate an iPad or help with the project, email Jacky at jacky@padforhope.com