If every journey starts with one small step, our 700-strong STEPtember team went on an epic adventure this year. In total, the team took more than 140 million steps and raised more than $70,000 for people living with cerebral palsy.
We understand that small actions can have a big impact too: we’ve collected over 100 pairs of children’s pyjamas for the Kindness Collective’s PJ Project to keep kids warm through the winter months, fundraised for a regional 24/7 mental health support line, taken part in Sustainable Coastlines clean-up events, provided educators and resources for the internet safety programme ThinkUKnow, and taken part in everything from the “Datacom Mo Bros”, to Sweat with Pride for the Burnett Foundation, The Longest Day Golfing Challenge for the Cancer Society, Wear it Purple for Black Rainbow, the Special Olympics, and Mental Health Month.
Volunteering commitments from the Datacom team have included firefighting, lifeguarding, youth mentoring and helping with clean-up efforts after fire and flooding.
As an organisation, we’re also making long-term commitments to our communities. One example of this is the Datacom Foundation which provides study grants for children impacted by the Christchurch terror attacks. Another long-term commitment is our work with the First Foundation – providing ongoing support to five students in their journey to hopefully become first-in-family university graduates.
Plans are already in place for more volunteer and fundraising initiatives next year, so we’re looking forward to growing new community connections in 2023.
Whether at home or school, using technology is critical for young people in many areas of life today. And as a result, children are accessing online spaces and tools now more than ever.
But there are also some very real safety challenges children can confront while online; privacy breaches, image abuse and grooming are among the potential threats they face.
Research into the digital life of Aussie teens, released last year by the eSafety Commissioner, shows young people are spending increasing amounts of time online (on average 14.4 hours a week), and of the people surveyed, four in 10 had at least one negative online experience in the previous six months.
Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate the risks, and dedicated organisations and volunteers who are looking out for our young people’s online safety.
ThinkUKnow is an internet safety programme for parents, carers, educators and children, which raises awareness and delivers education about preventing online child sexual exploitation. The programme is led by the Australian Federal Police and delivered in partnership with industry, and State and Territory police.
ThinkUKnow addresses topics including self-generated online child sexual exploitation material, online grooming and sexual extortion. Importantly, the programme also identifies strategies that children – and their families – can use to protect themselves and seek help when faced with such threats.
A solution to simplify the process of buying approved essential items for prison inmates and their families was the winner of this year’s transTasman Datacomp innovation competition.
“Charlie” a conversational AI assistant who helps young Australians navigate the mental health resources that are available to them was awarded second place, and third place went to an app designed to incentivise small businesses to engage with manageable actions to tackle climate change.
Datacomp is Datacom’s annual innovation challenge, and the solutions were the result of hundreds of competitors – who came together in Auckland and Sydney – and thousands of hours’ work condensed into just three days.
Each of the Datacomp challenges was briefed in by a local organisation looking to solve a genuine problem for their customers or community.
The winning solution from team ‘Ngā Mihi’ was a response to a challenge set by Siosaia Maka and Livi Kavesi, graduates of the Take2 programme, which provides an opportunity for people who are in prison to learn to code and then connects them with internships with tech companies, creating the foundation for long-term employment opportunities in the tech sector.
Kavesi, who is currently studying to become a full-stack developer at Dev Academy Aotearoa, made a powerful pitch for help from the Datacomp competitors: “My name is Livi and six months ago I was in prison. I was one of 7,500 people who struggle just to obtain these basic items. We want to provide a service that helps families and friends navigate through the complex processes of prison."
STEPtember saw the formation of a 760-strong transtasman Datacom team who clocked up more than 140 million steps in their efforts to raise money to support people living with cerebral palsy.
Pre and post-work team walks and “mobile meetings” became a regular occurrence, and taking a selfie while walking was definitely on trend.
Datacom Connect MD Stacey Tomasoni led “Pace with Stace” sessions throughout September, which drew together team members from different countries and as many as 20 different cities and towns.
“Raising money for life-changing research and support services for cerebral palsy was a great source of motivation for the team and people went above and beyond to squeeze thousands of extra steps into their week.”
The team’s final fundraising total for STEPtember was more than $70,000, including a $20,000 contribution from Datacom.
Before pounding the payment for STEPtember, Datacom MD Alex Coates also took on the Coastrek challenge to raise funding for the Beyond Blue team who provide vital mental health and wellbeing support in Australia.
“It is such as important cause. I feel incredibly passionate about women’s mental health in particular, especially after the last couple of years when women have had so much to juggle and, for many of them, that has taken a real toll on their personal wellbeing."
The epic Coastrek walk saw Alex walk from Melbourne’s Cape Schanck to Point Nepean, taking a total of 66,000 steps in 9 hours 21 minutes.
It was all worth it in the end – Alex’s personal fundraising total came to more than $9000 including a special matched donation of $2420 from Datacom, and together her team raised more than $13,000 to support much-needed mental health services.
Creating interactive, engaging spaces at Te Wao Nui, New Zealand's newest children's hospital, has been a team effort for Datacom, involving designers, animators, digital engineers and many others.
Helping children and their families feel comfortable and creating an environment to engage, calm and distract tamariki while they wait for treatment was all part of the brief for the Datacom team working on New Zealand’s newest children’s hospital.
Te Wao Nui, Wellington’s new children’s hospital, has opened its doors to patients this week for the first time and the role of technology is not restricted to diagnostics and medical equipment in the three-storey facility.
Visitors to the hospital will find a massive interactive game wall created by Datacom in the admissions area and a responsive donor wall that updates in real time.
Senior Health Operations Project Manager Sue Valentine says one of the real challenges in a hospital waiting room is that children want to run around and play which is not safe in the confined setting, but they are also often anxious, and distraction has become an important method of reducing that anxiety.
Senior Health Operations Project Manager
“My hopes for the future of Ngā Mihi are that it succeeds and changes the lives of prisoners and their friends and family, for the better,” says Datacom intern Maria Perriton and graduate of the AWS re/Start programme.
“At the moment it can take up to six months for basic items from friends or family to be approved and distributed to inmates. There’s also a lot of confusion around what qualifies as an approved item.”
Ngā Mihi is a ‘fast lane’ e-commerce solution to help simplify the process of getting basic items into prisons, which was first pitched as an idea at Datacomp, Datacom’s annual hackathon-style innovation competition.
Both Maria and Kafo Tila – a graduate of another Datacom partner programme Mission Ready Accelerator – were encouraged by their inhouse mentors to participate in Datacomp.
Maria was part of the Datacomp team Ngā Mihi that developed the winning solution in response to a brief provided by Siosaia Maka and Livi Kavesi talking about the challenges of getting basic items, such as socks and footwear, into prison.
Siosaia and Livi have both spent time in prison and are graduates of Take2, another Datacom partner programme that teaches prisoners to code and connects people with internships when they are released to create a foundation for a career in tech.
The current system in prisons requires Corrections to approve every single item that family want to send in to prison and for some prisoners and their loved ones that can turn into a frustrating process that takes months.
Datacom intern and Mission Ready graduate
For years we have been on a drive to become more efficient, reducing our office footprint and looking for ways to lower electricity usage in our data centres.
But two things have given our sustainability efforts real momentum in the past year. Both our customers and Datacom staff are demanding more of us in this space. Businesses are looking at us as a supplier and asking for data about our emissions profile. Increasingly, they will choose to work with IT partners that reflect their own sustainability goals.
Among our nearly 7,000 staff across New Zealand and Australia, we have many who are passionate about sustainability. They see the government’s Net Zero 2050 goal and the evidence from climate scientists highlighting the need to act to significantly reduce emissions this decade. Walking the talk on sustainability will increasingly be an aspect of the effort to recruit and retain talent.
These drivers convinced our leadership team to put a stake in the ground and aim for net carbon zero in a relatively short time span.
We have already received Toitū ‘carbonreduce certification’, which recognises that we have put in place strategies to manage and reduce our emissions footprint.
Getting to net carbon zero will involve improving the energy efficiency of our data centres, particularly in Australia, where we partner with infrastructure providers who are on their own emissions reduction journey.
We are investigating ways to reduce emissions from shipping hardware around the region by capturing better data from our freight providers in our hardware business. This will help us improve our supply chain logistics. The same goes for how we deal with waste.
We aim to reduce air travel across Datacom by 40% and will capture all travel data to help keep us on track. Shifting from taxis to rideshares and centralising data collection will help us lower emissions from transport.
Supporting hybrid and remote working, which were normalised during the pandemic, has allowed us to make more efficient use of the space we have across our 24 office locations, saving electricity and travel-related emissions in the process.
To date, 15 students have received a share of $90,000 from the Datacom Foundation to support their tertiary studies.
Tertiary courses being studied by the funding recipients include law, chemistry, geology, electrical engineering, medicine and surgery, arts, tourism, oral health therapy, sports coaching, data science and software engineering.
“It is great to see our hopes for the Datacom Foundation being realised with this tangible support for people who were impacted by the attacks. It is a really diverse range of subjects being studied and our applicants are a mix of ages and genders,” says Datacom Foundation chair and co-founder Husain Al-Badry.
“Our team was looking for a way to provide meaningful, ongoing support that could help with the healing process for the families. We chose education because we believe that education is the antidote to everything that led to the March 15 attacks, which was hatred and ignorance, and the absence of empathy and understanding.”
Husain says it is a philosophy that several of Datacom’s partners and collaborators have got behind, including the team at the Foodstuffs (South Island) Community Trust who have contributed nearly $40,000 to support the education foundation.
The tertiary funding from the Datacom Foundation—Iqra Salam Te Aroha (Learn, Peace, Love) is available through an application-based process to anyone who had a parent or sibling who died in the attacks or was bullet-wounded, and there is no set age limit to qualify.
Datacom’s network of customers and collaborators is also helping provide another avenue of support for the families, in the form of job opportunities.
“A number of the families suffered the devastating loss of a loved one and then also found themselves trying to manage without their main breadwinner after the attacks. We’ve worked with some of the widows left behind — who may not have had local job experience or training — and helped them find jobs and open up career pathways for the future.”
Husain says the Datacom Foundation and the opportunities it is providing could not have been achieved without support from the wider Datacom whanau, its networks and Christchurch’s Muslim community including Dr Mohammad Alayan, who lost his son Atta in the attacks, and Maha Galal who this year was named as a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in recognition for her work supporting people impacted by the 15 March Mosque attacks.