IEEE Foundation Funds Two Projects to Help Communities Weather the Pandemic

One increases the availability of fresh produce in Ohio and the other limits COVID-19 misinformation in Indonesia

3 min read
Illustration of dollar bills with a COVID-19 icon
Illustration: iStockphoto

THE INSTITUTE Since the IEEE Foundation established its COVID-19 Response Fund in April to support IEEE programs and initiatives that are helping members weather the pandemic, it has received more than US $42,173 from individual donors and philanthropic organizations worldwide. The gifts have enabled or enhanced several important initiatives.

The fund partnered with the IEEE Humanitarian Activities Committee and the IEEE Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology to provide support to their special call for proposals related to COVID-19. HAC and SIGHT’s joint effort prioritizes proposals that have a strong potential for immediate impact in the fight against the virus.

More than 70 projects were approved. Here are two for which the IEEE Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund provided financial support.

PROVIDING A COMMUNITY WITH FRESH PRODUCE

The IEEE Columbus [Ohio] Section, in collaboration with local community groups and eight nonprofits, is developing systems for a self-sustaining urban farm in Columbus’s Milo Grogan neighborhood. African-Americans—who make up more than 80 percent of residents there—have been disproportionally affected by the virus. About 45 percent of the neighborhood’s residents live below the poverty line, according to a 2016 study by the nonprofit Greater Ohio Policy Center, making it difficult to afford healthful food such as fresh produce.

The IEEE section is developing automated lighting and watering systems for the urban farm. The lighting system’s cycles will be determined by the type of LEDs being used in a specific area of the farm and the growth stage of the produce in that area, according to IEEE Senior Member Carl Nathan Lee. The water system’s schedule will be based on the type of plant, the growing medium used, and the nutrient mixtures that are added.

The Milo Grogan 365 Fresh Produce Farm will provide local restaurants and residents, who will also manage the farm, with organic produce year-round, Lee says. The farm, which is expected to start food production next year, will also create jobs and revenue for the neighborhood, he says.

The IEEE Foundation’s financial support will “enable students to be exposed to hands-on [learning], programming training, and device installation and operation,” Lee says.

STOPPING THE SPREAD OF MISINFORMATION

A group from the IEEE Women in Engineering Indonesia Section has developed a series of virtual workshops on information literacy to help stop the spread of misinformation about COVID-19. The team, Women Against Disruptive Information on COVID-19 Pandemic in Indonesia, is collaborating with several Indonesian groups including the Ministry of Communication and Information, the Medical Association, and the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Children Protection.

“The spread of misinformation has increased significantly because people are reluctant to read, and many people [in Indonesia] have low information literacy,” says IEEE Member Dewi Yanti Liliana, the project leader. “COVID-19 hoaxes can cause panic and irrational behavior.”

“Indonesian women are very prone to disruptive information due to the nature of extensive communication culture in our society,” adds IEEE Senior Member Riri Fitri Sari, chair of the IEEE WIE Indonesia Section. “The spread of fake news, particularly on different aspects of life during the COVID-19 pandemic, can be diminished when we educate the society to be more logical when passing information to others.”

The first workshop was held on 22 and 23 August. More than 500 women attended. They learned how to identify fake news. The second day focused on training 30 leaders from the Indonesian Association of Women and Gender Studies how to teach others about information literacy.

The group is in the process of revising training modules, materials, and the registration process for future workshops. It also is developing pre-assessment and post-assessment tests to measure participants’ level of understanding.

“IEEE HAC and IEEE SIGHT are grateful to the IEEE Foundation donors who are making it possible for grassroots IEEE volunteers to combat COVID-19 through innovative solutions in their own communities,” says IEEE Senior Member Sampath Veeraraghavan, chair of the IEEE SIGHT steering committee.

Donations to the IEEE Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund are still being accepted.

Karen Kaufman is senior manager of communications for the IEEE Foundation.

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