IEEE President’s Column: New Opportunities for Member Engagement

The organization is working to overcome challenges brought on by the pandemic

3 min read
Photo of Toshio Fukuda
Photo: Christie’s Photographic Solutions

THE INSTITUTE As I draft this column, our international community of engineers, technologists, scientists, and researchers continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This worldwide crisis has brought with it public-health challenges, global economic uncertainty, and transformative lifestyle changes that will most likely have a lasting effect on not only businesses and markets but also our attitudes and behaviors.

Understanding the pandemic’s far-reaching implications for IEEE requires that we successfully navigate the financial and operational challenges of the coronavirus while also rapidly addressing the needs of our members.

As I wrote in my June column, technologies—many still emerging—continue to play a vital role in the response to the pandemic and in keeping our society operational in this unprecedented time. These disruptive technologies are certain to have a long-term impact beyond our current environment and across various fields and industries.

The pandemic has accelerated several key technology trends that had been slowly growing in importance for years and now have become essential in our global and diverse world. These include how we do business, how we work, how we shop, how we learn, how we receive medical care, how we convene and collaborate, and how we entertain ourselves.

Technologically enabled tools and systems—in particular those with a focus on health care, power-system resilience, digital financial services, cloud connectivity, and online distribution to consumers—have seen demand for services skyrocket during the economic shutdown. Machine learning and artificial intelligence underlie much of the explosive growth.

We have also seen an acceleration of technological adoption by the public. As the world adapts to new modes of living as “the new normal,” technologies that enable us to work, study, shop, and interact virtually have seen a rapid increase in mainstream adoption. And as we continue to experience new ways of communicating and collaborating, the acceptance and integration of robotics and automation will continue to accelerate.


Our professional community may no longer be constrained by the physical borders of our offices, campuses, or laboratories. As the workplace becomes more virtual, the vital roles of IEEE have become even clearer: to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, advance the technical state of the art, promote guidelines and standards for professional excellence, and raise public awareness and recognition of our members’ contributions.

As society begins to contemplate our shared reality beyond the pandemic, IEEE is envisioning new opportunities and environments to ensure we are reaching our members wherever they are and meeting their transformed needs. We are focused on the capabilities that will ensure that our organization is as pioneering and agile as our members are.

At IEEE, we focus on what’s next—enabling innovation and the creation and delivery of new technology solutions.

What improvements can be made to the way we engage our members to meet the pace with which technology is changing? How can we use technology to augment member interaction and allow members to work together in diverse, collaborative teams? What hybrid educational resources can be implemented to support our members’ lifelong learning goals? How can our worldwide presence facilitate networking and knowledge generation? Our efforts will serve as catalysts for our operational evolution.

We are thinking strategically on how these actions reflect IEEE’s responsiveness to change and the organization’s willingness to meet head-on significant challenges to our traditional ways of doing business. We are also working to anticipate further changes in the technology and business landscapes that could challenge our operations and that will continue to evolve to succeed in the increasingly dynamic world around us.

In this year of unprecedented change, the mission of IEEE has not wavered. We remain committed to fostering technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.

Many IEEE members continue to be directly and indirectly engaged in the fight against this global pandemic—supporting biomedical research and applications, supporting data analysis and modeling, maintaining critical communications and power infrastructure, and caring for each other.

Their efforts have resulted in numerous technological innovations in a wide variety of sectors including artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, cybersecurity, finance, health IT, logistics, and agriculture. We expect all our members will continue to grow, innovate, and inspire change.

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